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Kazimir Malevich suprematism 

Organized by Matthew Drutt 


, i 

Essays by Matthew Drutt, Nina Gunanova, Jean-Claude 
Marcade. Tatiana Mikhienko, Evgenia Re'trova, and 
Vasilii Rakitin ■> 

A Guggenheim Museum Publication 

272 pages; 180 illustrations, 120 in full color 

In 1915,' Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) changed the future of 
. Modern art when his experiments in painting led the Russian 
avant-garde into pure abstraction. He called his innovation 
Suprematism— ra'h art of pure geometric form meant to be 
universally comprehensible regardless of cultural or ethnic 
origin. His Suprematist masterpieces, including Black Square 
(1915) and White Square on White (1920-27), continue to 
inspire artists throughout the world. 

Accompanying the first exhibition to focus exclusively on 
this defining moment in Malevich's- career, Kazimir Malevich; 
.Suprematism features nearly 120 paintings, drawings, and 
objects, among them several recently rediscovered master- 
works. In addition, the book includes previously unpublished 
letters, texts, and diaries, along with essays by. international 
scholars, who shed new light on this influential figure and his 
devotion to the spiritual in art. 









Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 




Guggenheim m us eu 


Published on the occasion of the exhibition 
Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 
Organized by Matthew Drutt 

Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin 
January 14-April 27, 2003 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 
May 13-September7, 2003 

The Menil Collection, Houston 
October 3, 2003-January 1 1 , 2004 

This exhibition is sponsored by ^ /4L FAB/INK 

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 

© 2003 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. 

All rights reserved. 

All works used by permission. 

ISBN: 0-89207-265-2 

Guggenheim Museum Publications 

1071 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York 10128 

Hardcover edition distributed by 

Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 

100 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York 10011 

Book design: Eileen Boxer 

Printed in Germany by Cantz 

Production: Elizabeth Levy, Tracy Hennige 

Editorial: Elizabeth Franzen, Stephen Hoban, Jennifer Knox White 



Preface 8 


Acknowledgments 10 


Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 16 


Malevich, Painting, and Writing: 

On the Development of a Suprematist Philosophy 32 


The Supremus "Laboratory House": Reconstructing the Journal 44 


The Optimism of a Nonobjectivist 60 


The Suprematist Column — A Monument to Nonobjective Art 78 


Malevich's Suprematism and Religion 88 


Plates 96 

Letters and Documents 238 

Exhibitions 252 

Index of Reproductions 266 





On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the artist's birth, the Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Museum and The Menil Collection are very pleased to join together in the presentation of 
Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism. Our collaboration is especially fitting, for the founders of our 
respective institutions were inspired by the spiritual quest and aesthetic ideals that exemplify the 
period in Malevich's art explored by this exhibition. Furthermore, his art became a standard for 
generations of European and American artists, whose works form the cornerstones of our 
distinct collections. 

For the Guggenheim, this exhibition is the latest manifestation of a commitment to the art 
of the Russian avant-garde that began early in the institution's history. Masterworks by Marc 
Chagall, Natalia Goncharova, Vasily Kandinsky, Mikhail Lanonov, El Lissitzky, and Kazimir 
Malevich entered the collection at an early stage. Moreover, the museum has mounted many 
exhibitions devoted to Russian artists, with no fewer than nineteen since 1945 devoted to 
Kandinsky alone. The first great retrospective of Malevich's work in this country was presented 
by the Guggenheim in 1973, with definitive exhibitions of Chagall (1975 and 1993) and Gabo 
( 1 986) following shortly thereafter. Art of the Avant Garde in Russia: Selections from the Costakis 
Collection (1981) and The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde, 1915-1932 
remain the two most comprehensive exhibitions ever mounted on the subject, while Amazons 
of the Avant-Garde (2000) offered fresh insights into an understudied aspect of Russian 

The Menil Collection also contains important works by Russian artists, including Ivan Kliun, 
Larionov, Lissitzky, and Malevich. But it is the spiritual idealism at the heart of Malevich's enter- 
prise that finds its greatest affinity with the Menil's history and collections. Beginning with the 
construction of the Rothko Chapel in 1971, John and Dominique de Menil demonstrated a 
commitment to the notion of a sanctuary defined by modern works of art that ultimately trans- 
lated into the building designed by Renzo Piano to house their collection in 1987. Installations 
of sacred art from Antiquity, Byzantium, and the Medieval eras, along with galleries devoted to 
the tribal arts of Africa, Oceana, and the Northwest Coast, provide an historical backdrop to in- 
depth presentations of modern artists whose own works have a spiritual or enigmatic character, 
including Dan Flavin, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Cy Twombly. Moreover, this exhibition 

of Malevich's work offers a deeper look at a particular aspect of the artist's career, something 
that has long been a feature of Menil exhibitions, resulting in new insights about artists long 
thought to be well understood. 

We are therefore greatly indebted to all of the lenders and scholars who have contributed 
so much to this project's success. At an historical moment when it has become increasingly 
challenging to sustain sufficient funding for arts programming, we are deeply grateful to those 
acknowledged here for their support of this landmark exhibition. At the Guggenheim, we 
must thank Alfa Bank, Moscow, and in particular Mikhail Fndman, Chairman of the Board of 
Directors, for his leadership and continued support. We would also like to thank Alexander 
Gafin and Svetlana Smirnova for their creativity and dedication. We are indebted to Harvey S. 
Shipley Miller and The Judith Rothschild Foundation for their generous support of the exhibi- 
tion opening dinner in New York. The Menil Collection would like to acknowledge The Brown 
Foundation, Inc., The Cullen Foundation, Houston Endowment, Inc., and The Wortham 
Foundation, for their ongoing support of the museum's programs and operations. We are also 
most grateful to the many individuals whose generosity made the presentation of this exhibi- 
tion in Houston possible. 

Finally, we express our deepest appreciation to Matthew Drutt, Chief Curator of The Menil 
Collection, for his skillful and thoughtful organization of this ambitious exhibition and 


Director, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation 

Interim Director, The Menil Collection 





The opportunity to reflect upon Kazimir Malevich's art in a deep and meaningful way is privi- 
lege enough. To have been able to do so with the benefit of rediscovered works of art and 
new documentary materials is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Over the past four years of work- 
ing toward this exhibition, an extraordinary number of people generously shared resources and 
provided crucial guidance and advice. I must first of all thank the key representatives of the 
Russian Federation, Mikhail Shwydkoi, Minister of Culture, and Pavel Khoroshilov, Deputy 
Minister of Culture; Denis Mochanov, Deputy Minister; and Anna Kolupaeva, Head of the 
Museum Department at the Ministry, for their generous patronage and ongoing support of 
this project. I am also once again most indebted to Nicolas V. Iljine, European Representative 
of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, for the important role he played throughout the 
inception and realization of the exhibition. I must also express my profound gratitude to 
Krystyna Gmurzynska and Mathias Rastorfer of Galerie Gmurzynska Cologne and Galerie 
Gmurzynska Zug in Switzerland, who were not only most helpful in arranging key loans from 
private collections, but who also provided much needed moral support throughout the trials 
of bringing this exhibition together. 

I am especially grateful to Susan Braeuer, Project Curatorial Assistant at The Menil 
Collection, who deftly managed all aspects of the exhibition and catalogue, with additional 
assistance provided by Karolina Zelinka, Curatorial Assistant, who also supported me at the 
Menil. Megan Luke, formerly Project Curatorial Assistant at the Guggenheim, is also to be 
thanked for her work on the exhibition's early stages, and Zelfira Tregulova, formerly Curatorial 
Advisor, Guggenheim Russian Projects, once again provided invaluable assistance with regard 
to Russian lenders. 

This exhibition had its first manifestation at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, where it 
broke all previous records for attendance. I would therefore like to thank Dr. Ariane Gngoteit 
and Friedhelm Hutte, Global Heads of Deutsche Bank Art, as well as Svenja Grafin von 
Reichenbach, Gallery Manager; Uwe Rommel, Head Art Handler and Exhibition Technician, 
and his team; and Volker Lohs, Deutsche Bank House Technician of GTG for their oversight of 
the intricate preparations for and installation of the exhibition there. I would like to recognize 
as well assistance of their colleagues Sara Bernshausen, Britta Farber, and Jbrg Klambt. 

At The Menil Collection, I am most thankful to James T. Demetrion, Interim Director, and 
his predecessor, Ned Rifkin, as well as to Louisa Stude Sarofim and our entire Board of Trustees, 


for their staunch support and enthusiasm for the show. I am also indebted to the following 
individuals at the Menil who contributed in many ways to this exhibition: Deborah Velders, 
Head of Exhibitions and Programs; Anne Adams, Registrar; Gary "Bear" Parham, Head of Art 
Services; Elizabeth Lunning, Chief Conservator; Vance Muse, Head of Communications; 
William Taylor, Director of Planning and Advancement; and John Reed, retired Chief Financial 
Officer, and EC. Moore, Chief Financial Officer. 

At the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, I must first of all thank Thomas Krens, Director, 
for his ongoing support both during my tenure at the Guggenheim and beyond. I am also 
indebted to the many individuals there whose efforts contributed to the success of this exhi- 
bition: Lisa Dennison, Deputy Director and Chief Curator; Marion Kahan, Exhibition Program 
Manager; Brendan Connell, Assistant General Counsel; Meryl Cohen, Director of Registration 
and Art Services; Elissa Myerowitz, Associate Registrar; Kathleen Hill, Project Registrar; Scott 
Wixon, Manager of Art Services and Preparations, Mary Ann Hoag, Lighting Designer, Jeffrey 
Clemens, Associate Preparator; Ana Luisa Leite, Manager of Exhibition Design, Marcia 
Fardella, Chief Graphic Designer; and Paul M. Schwartzbaum, Chief Conservator. 

This handsome catalogue would not have come to fruition without the talent and imagi- 
nation if its designer, Eileen Boxer, who is also to be thanked for her insights into various 
aspects of the exhibition. I express my deep appreciation to the authors whose essays enrich 
our appreciation of Malevich's art: Nina Gunanova, Jean-Claude Marcade, Tatiana Mikhienko, 
Yevgenia Petrova, and Vasilii Rakitin. I am further indebted to Mr. Rakitin, as well as to my 
colleagues at the Tretiakov Gallery, Irina Lebedeva, Tatiana Mikhienko, and Irma Vakhar, for 
allowing me to borrow generously from their forthcoming publication on Malevich, Malevich 
o Sebe, which forms the core of the documentary materials and the accompanying commen- 
taries published here in translation for the first time. I would also like to extend my special 
thanks to Nina N. Suetina for providing the original diaries of Kazimir Malevich, which were of 
great value to the authors. 

I am most grateful for the skillful management of this catalogue by the Guggenheim's 
Publications department, under the leadership of Anthony Calnek, Deputy Director for 
Communications and Publishing. I would especially like to thank Elizabeth Franzen, Managing 
Editor, Elizabeth Levy, Director of Publications; Tracy Hennige, Production Assistant; Stephen 
Hoban, Editorial Assistant; and Jennifer Knox White, Editor, for their consistently outstanding 


work. My gratitude also extends to the translators, who include Antonina W. Bouis, Daniel 
Rishik, and Molly Stevens. 

Finally, I must express my profound gratitude to the following individuals and institutions 
whose generosity with loans has made this exhibition possible: Evgenii M. Ziablov, Director, 
and Mikhail Cherepashenets, Deputy Director, at Rosizo for the works from Russian regional 
museums (A. N. Radischev State Art Museum, Saratov; Museum of Fine Arts, Ekaterinburg; 
Regional Art Museum F. A. Kovalenko, Krasnodar; Regional Art Museum, Ivanovo); James 
Cuno, Director, Harvard University Art Museums; Theodore Bremer, President, Foundation 
Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam; Mathias Rastorfer and Krystyna Gmurzynska, 
Galerie Gmurzynska Cologne and Zug; Yutaka Tokiwa, Director, Hiroshima Prefectural 
Museum of Art, Hiroshima; Evert Rodrigo, Director, Instittut Collectie Nederland; Makato 
Suzuki, President, Shin-iche Numabe, Curator, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Modern Art, 
Sakura; Dr. Alfred Pacquement, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 
Pans; Prof. Dr. Kasper Konig, Director, and Dr. Evelyn Weiss, Deputy Director, Museum Ludwig, 
Cologne, Philip Rylands, Director, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Private collection, 
courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska Zug; Private collection, courtesy Shiraishi Contemporary Art, 
Tokyo; Vladimir Gusev, Director, Evgenia Petrova, Deputy Director, State Russian Museum, St. 
Petersburg; Valentin Rodionov, General Director, and Lidia lovlea, First Deputy Director 
General, State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow; Rudi Fuchs, Artistic Director, W. S. van Heusden, 
Managing Director, and Geurt Imanse, Curator, Painting and Sculpture, Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam; Sir Nicolas Serota, Director, Tate Gallery of Modern Art, London; Harvey S. Shipley 
Miller, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York; Glenn D. Lowry, Director, The Museum of 
Modern Art, New York; Natalia Metelitsa, Deputy Director, St. Petersburg State Museum of 
Theatre and Music. Their support for this project has endured through some of the most chal- 
lenging times in world history, which has had a profound effect on the economics, risks, and 
logistics of organizing international art exhibitions. They are to be commended for their dedi- 
cation to our field. 


Chief Curator, The Menil Collection 


Lenders to the Exhibition 

A. N Radischev State Art Museum, Saratov 

Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums 

The Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 
Amsterdam/Stedehjk Museum, Amsterdam 

Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Japan 

Kawamura Memorial Museum of Modern Art, Sakura, Japan 

Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 

Museum of Fine Arts, Ekaterinburg 

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Foundation, New York) 

Private collection, courtesy Galene Gmurzynska Zug 

Private collection, courtesy Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Tokyo 

Regional Art Museum, Ivanovo 

Regional Art Museum F. A. Kovalenko, Krasnodar 

St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre & Music 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 

State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow 

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam/lnstituut Collectie 
Nederland Rijswijk 

Tate Gallery of Modern Art, London 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York 

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1927, pencil on paper, low x 8 1 /; inches 

(26.7 x 21 6 cm) 

Kupferstichkabinett. Oftentliche Kunstsammlung Basel 








Malevich is unquestionably the most celebrated Russian artist of 
his generation. By the middle of the last century, both Western 
and Soviet institutions had acquired more of his major works than 
those of any of his colleagues, and during his brief lifetime no 
fewer than five solo exhibitions were devoted to his work, both at 
home and abroad. 1 With the single-mindedness of a missionary or 
a prophet, Malevich spent nearly fifteen years of his career 
espousing the aesthetic and moral superiority of a system of 
abstract art he termed Suprematism. A complete departure from 
any pictorial method theretofore recognized in art, Suprematism 
was characterized by Malevich as "that end and beginning where 
sensations are uncovered, where art emerges 'as such.'" 2 He 
adopted many guises in the service of this new art, from teacher 
and administrator to theorist and aesthete, all fashioned to bring 
about a sea change in the way people thought about art and its 
impact upon the world around them. 

The critic Ernst Kallai, in his review of Malevich's works at the 
Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung (Great Berlin Art Exhibition) in 
1927, acknowledged his singular accomplishment: "It is quite dif- 
ficult to imagine what further development in painting is possible 
beyond what has been achieved." 3 But Malevich's art did not 



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1927, pencil on paper, SVe x ^0Vl inches (20.6 x 26 7 cm) 
Kupferstichkabinett, Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel 

always inspire such critical acclaim. Alexandre Benois, the 
ideological leader of the Russian Symbolist group Mir 
iskusstva (World of Art), decried his painting Black Square 
(1915) as a "sermon of nothingness and destruction," 4 
while over a decade later, a Constructivist critic sarcasti- 
cally denounced one of his more recent pictures as 
follows: "The only good canvas in the entire Unovis exhibi- 
tion is an absolutely pure, white canvas with a very good 
prime coating. Something could be done on it." 5 

Malevich's art outlived such pessimism and decades of 
government repression, as well as the artist's own descent 
into self-doubt, which at the end of his career led him to 
abandon abstraction for a kind of Italianate realism only 
tenuously connected to his previous concerns. More than 
merely survive, his art assumed a prominent position in 
the canon of high Modernism, commanding a level of 

respect and influence in the history of art reserved for 
precious few. And while it might not have seemed so at 
the time — he encountered great difficulty in securing a 
place in the project discussed below 6 — the moment of 
Malevich's debut in the West was a clear indication of his 
burgeoning stature. 

Keenly aware of their segregation from mainstream 
currents in Modern art, a committee of Russian artists 
headed by David Shterenberg organized the first major 
exhibition celebrating Russian achievements in Modernism 
for Western audiences. 7 Opening in the wake of El 
Lissitzky's declaration that "The Blockade of Russia is 
Coming to an End," 8 the Erste russische Kunstausstellung 
(First Russian Art Exhibition) debuted at the Galerie Van 
Diemen in Berlin in 1922 before continuing on to the 
Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, presenting more than a 
thousand works by artists representing nearly every 
tendency in Russian art of the early twentieth century. 
More than half of the exhibition was made up of works by 
more conservative artists, such as Abram Arkhipov, Benois, 
Boris Kustodiev, Alexander Ivanov, and Sergei Gerasimov; 
but by far the most notable aspect of the show was the 
presentation of works by more vanguard artists, such as 
Natan Altman, Ilia Chashnik, Alexandra Exter, Naum 
Gabo, Ivan Kliun, Gustav Klutsis, Lissitzky, Liubov Popova, 
Alexander Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, and Vladimir Tatlm. 
For the first time, Western audiences were exposed to the 
full scope and breadth of the dominant poles of Russian 
Modernism — Suprematism and Constructivism — which 
had been waging an ideological battle for supremacy in 
Russia for several years. And while Malevich was repre- 
sented in the exhibition by only six pieces, two of which 
can be positively identified — Suprematism (Supremus no. 


55; (1916, p. 164) and White Square on White (1918, p. 
201 ) — the presence of so many works by his students in 
and around the Unovis group made it clear that he already 
wielded great authority within Russian artistic circles. 

Five years later, in 1927, Malevich had an opportunity 
to make his case directly, embarking on a three-month 
tour through Poland and Germany to preach the gospel of 
his artistic research. It had taken several years for him to 
get under way. Already in 1924, Malevich had been 
invited by the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, at the 
instigation of Lissitzky, to organize an exhibition of his and 
his students' works to travel around Germany 9 In his peti- 
tion for permission to travel abroad, Malevich noted: "It 
seems to me that the wave of our painting and artistic- 
industrial exhibitions in the West is over — all of the works 
in this area have been shown and the masters of the 
RSFSR and their achievements have been presented. 10 Now 
we must prepare for a new wave of new exhibitions. . . . 
We would show what has not yet been achieved in the 
West in the area of aesthetics, which is of great interest 
there now." 11 

It was not until 1926, following several such petitions, 
that Malevich was finally granted leave and not until 
March 1927 that he was able to depart. By then, plans for 
a larger presentation had devolved into projects focusing 
primarily on his own work. Malevich traveled to Berlin via 
Warsaw, where he had a solo exhibition at the Hotel 
Polonia hosted by the Club of Polish Artists. While the 
show received an uneven reception in the press,' 2 
Malevich's month-long stay, which he inaugurated with a 
spirited lecture on Suprematism, was to have a lasting 
effect on the development of Polish Modernism.' 3 At the 
end of the month, he left for Berlin, accompanied by 

Tadeusz Peiper, editor of the Polish journal Zwrotnica, and 
found lodging with Gustav von Riesen, an engineer who 
had worked in Russia many years earlier. In April, Malevich 
and Peiper visited the Bauhaus in Dessau, where they 
were greeted by Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. 

Through Moholy-Nagy, Malevich was invited to 
prepare a publication for the series of books being 
published by the Bauhaus on new currents in Modern art. 
Entitled Die gegenstandlose Welt (The Nonobjective 
World), it was divided into two parts, "Einfuhrung in die 
Theone des additionalen Elementes der Malerei" 
("Introduction to the Theory of the Additional Element in 
Painting") and "Suprematismus" ("Suprematism"). 
Though derived from lectures and articles formulated in a 
variety of iterations since 1922, the book became a means 
for Malevich to attempt a more straightforward synthesis 
of his artistic principles than ever before, translated into a 
Western language. In the first part, he mapped out in text 

(20 6 ■ 


1915, oil on canvas, 26 x 38Ya inches 
(66 x 97 cm) 
Stedel ijk Museum, Amsterdam 

and sixty-six illustrations aspects of the real world that had 
inspired the foundations of Suprematism, from the 
painterly abstractions of natural form found in 
Impressionism, works by Paul Cezanne, and Cubism to the 
machine-age marvel of airplanes, blimps, trains, skyscrap- 
ers, and aerial views of cityscapes (creating a perhaps 
unintended parity with Le Corbusier's treatise Vers une 
architecture [Toward a New Architecture], published four 
years prior). In the second part, Malevich launched into 
the realm of sensation and pure feeling, offering a cata- 
logue of twenty-four ideal Suprematist forms that 
demonstrated the contrasting states derived from the first 
three basic Suprematist elements, the black square, the 
black circle, and the black cross (pp. 16, 18-19), and from 
more dynamic compositions with connotations of feeling, 
movement, and sound (pp. 26, 37, 40). ,4 While not 
completely devoid of the more tortuous language for 
which he had become known,' 5 the publication asserted 
his clearest and most cogent explanation of his practice, 
and it served to baptize him officially within the annals of 
the European avant-garde. 

However, the great watershed of his visit to Germany 
occurred in May 1927, when some seventy paintings, 
gouaches, charts, and drawings spanning his entire career 
to date were the subject of a special presentation at the 
Greaf Berlin Art Exhibition. No other Russian artist, not 
even Kandinsky, who had been celebrated in Germany 
long before Malevich, had ever received such distin- 
guished attention. Even the normally reserved Russian 
Commissar for Education, Anatoly Lunacharsky, noted, 
"The artist Malevich, in spite of the exclusivity of his 
approach to painting, is, of course, a great master. It is not 
surprising that in a country where the incomprehensible 


Kandinsky could be successful, the more synthetic and 
courageous Malevich would find favor, especially after his 
present turn toward hard and harsh painting."' 6 The exhi- 
bition became a defining moment in Malevich's career in 
terms of the reception of his work in the West, not just at 
the time, but subsequently also; as it turns out, the works 
shown would become, outside Russia, the primary source 
of knowledge of Malevich's oeuvre for the next fifty years. 

Malevich returned to Leningrad on June 5, four 
months before his exhibition closed, to continue his work 
at the Gosudarstvennyi institut istorii iskusstv (State 
Institute for the History of Art). He may have planned to 
return to Germany, perhaps even to settle there; he had 
left his works in the exhibition in the care of Hugo Hanng, 
the secretary of the architectural association responsible 
for organizing the show, and had entrusted his host, von 
Riesen, with a package of his writings. Evidently 
concerned about his fate and the disposition of these 
materials, Malevich drew up a will in the case of his 
untimely death. 17 His apprehensions were well founded; 
Malevich never returned to the West. In a matter of only a 
few years, his research and art fell out of favor with 
colleagues at the Institute in Leningrad, culminating in his 
expulsion and the dismantling of his department in 1930 
as the political climate shifted swiftly toward more 
staunchly conservative views of cultural production hostile 
to the avant-garde's model. While his solo exhibition at 
the State Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow in November 1929 
was well regarded by some critics, 18 it showed the first 
evidence of Malevich's disillusionment with abstraction 
(perhaps brought about by political pressure), in a series of 
recent paintings in a figurative mode that returned to the 
earlier days of Cubo-Futurism. He was no doubt aware of 

his precarious position within the prevailing political 
climate in Russia, which prohibited his contact with 
colleagues in the West. His solo exhibition in Kiev, which 
opened in April 1930, was denounced in the official press: 
"However, in spite of all of the wonderful aspects of 
Malevich's creative work, the foundation of his artistic 
activity is foreign to proletarian culture. His entire work 
conveys the notion that he, as a bourgeois artist, needs art 
not for serving society but only for the sake of form." 19 
That September, he was jailed for several months by 
the OGPU (United State Political Agency) following his 
expulsion from the Institute amid accusations by 
colleagues there that he was practicing "formalism" (by 
that time a blanket condemnation for anyone thought to 
be indulging in bourgeois aesthetics), and he was interro- 
gated extensively about his views on art and his activities 
abroad. 20 In the transcript of this examination, Malevich 
repeatedly defends his work as having been carried out 
on behalf of the ideals of the Soviet state: "There were no 
attempts on the part of the practitioners of the bourgeois 
tendency to win me over to their side, nor could there 
have been, as my convictions and views on art, based on 
thirty years of work, are known." 2 ' His contentions were 
in vain. Though finally released on December 8, Malevich 
was increasingly ostracized by a cultural bureaucracy 
now dominated by Realist academicians. In the last years 
of his life, which ended abruptly in 1935 following a 
brief illness, Malevich focused increasingly upon his 
legacy, bracketing his abstract experiments of 191 5-28 
with backdated Post-Impressionist landscapes and 
neo-Renaissance portraits designed to create a logical 
progression of styles and attitudes in his work. 22 However, 



1915, oil on canvas. 3 1 'A x 24Vr inches 

(80 x 62 cm) 

S tedel i j k Museum, Amsterdam 

these works would not become known outside Russia 
until several decades after they were made. 

Instead, the Western view of Malevich's art in general, 
and Suprematism in particular, during much of the last 
century was primarily shaped by the works from the 
Greaf Berlin Art Exhibition, thanks to Haring and the 
interventions of Alexander Doerner, director of the 
Provinzialmuseum in Hannover, and Alfred Barr, director of 
the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who saw to it 
that these works found their way into public collections. 
(Fifty-one paintings, gouaches, and drawings were 
acquired from Haring by the Stedelijk Museum alone in 
1 958; pp. 22 and 1 29) Over the next fifty years, they were 
published or exhibited in a variety of contexts, from books 
or exhibitions devoted to Malevich to those concerning 
abstract art in general, all of which served to further 
secure his place in the history of art. 23 The defining 
moment of this phase was the landmark exhibition, orga- 
nized in conjunction with the publication of Troels 
Andersen's catalogue raisonne of the 1927 Berlin show, 
that traveled to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 
New York (p. 23) and the Pasadena Art Museum in 
1973. 24 While his works were certainly not unknown to 
American audiences — paintings by Malevich had been on 
view at the Museum of Modern Art since 1936 — this 
broad survey brought a historical depth and scholarly 
context to his work not seen before in the United States. 
Moreover, its timely presentation corresponded with the 
reductivist strategies dominating American art at the time, 
in the works of Carl Andre, Mel Bochner, Dan Flavin, 
Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, 
and Brice Marden, among others. In his review of the 
exhibition, Judd hailed Malevich as the pioneer of 


nonobjective art: "It's obvious now that the forms and 
colors in the paintings that Malevich began painting in 
1 9 1 5 are the first instances of form and color ... His 
work is more radical than Mondnan's, for example, which 
has a considerable idealistic quality and which ultimately 
has an anthropomorphic, if 'abstract,' composition of high 
and low, right and left Art doesn't change in sequence. 
By now there is work and controversy many times over 
within the context Malevich established." 25 

Following that exhibition, slowly increasing access to 
artworks in both public and private collections in Russia 
and elsewhere in the East progressively yielded a broader 
understanding of the scope and depth of Malevich's 
achievements. 26 The first major museum exhibition to take 
advantage of this was Malevitch, organized by Pontus 
Hulten for the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 
1978. 27 Of the 234 objects assembled, only forty-six were 
paintings (nineteen of which were Suprematist), and thus 
the exhibition offered the most in-depth review of 
Malevich's drawings and graphic art seen to that time, 
with the greatest number of these works coming from 
Russian private collections. Even more ambitious, however, 
was the collaborative exhibition Kazimir Malevich, 
1878-1935, organized by the State Russian Museum in 
St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), the State Tretiakov Gallery 
in Moscow, and the Stedelijk Museum in 1988, which 
presented the most comprehensive survey of his career to 
date, with some 215 paintings, drawings, prints, sculp- 
tures, books, and utilitarian objects, approximately fifty of 
which dated from the Suprematist period (1 91 5-30). This 
was followed, in 1990-91, by another survey in the 
United States; though slightly smaller in scope and with 
far fewer Suprematist works, the exhibition occasioned an 









1915, oil on canvas, 27V? x 17Vb inches 

(70 x 44 cm) 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

extensive scientific study of Malevich's working method, 
which yielded new insight into his painterly technique. 28 
And in 1 992, The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet 
Avant-Garde, 1915-1932, organized by the Guggenheim 
Museum, included key works by Malevich situated within 
the most encyclopedic exhibition of Russian Modern art to 
date, underscoring Malevich's dominant position among 
his peers and students and offering Western audiences 
the full scope of Russian Modernism for the first time 
since the First Russian Art Exhibition of 1 922. M 

But as much as these exhibitions were crucial to the 
interpretation and evaluation of Malevich's art, none of 
them benefited from the recent rediscovery of major 
paintings and drawings as well as letters and other docu- 
mentary materials long thought lost or destroyed or else 
completely unknown, most of which belonged to the 
legendary historian, collector, and custodian of the 
Russian avant-garde Nikolai Khardzhiev. Little known 
outside Russia until a decade ago, Khardzhiev was more 
than a scholar; he was a trusted associate of many of the 
artists, including Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksei Kruchenykh, 
Kliun, Lissitzky, Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Tatlin. 
When he succeeded in emigrating to the Netherlands in 
1993, something he had been attempting for twenty 
years, 30 he took with him his collection of some 1 ,350 
artworks of the Russian avant-garde and countless letters 
and documents. 31 Within this vast repository were eight 
major paintings and hundreds of drawings, sketches, 
notes, and manuscripts by Malevich. These materials are 
the raison d'etre for the current exhibition. 

While the number of artworks in the Khardzhiev 
collection may seem small in comparison to what has 
been in the public eye for so many years, it is their 


superior quality and uniqueness that makes them so 
fundamentally important to a reconsideration of 
Malevich's art. Some of the works fill in chronological 
gaps, while others significantly deepen our understanding 
of his painterly method as well as his use of drawing. 
Taken as a whole, this exhibition is the first major presen- 
tation of Malevich's art to focus on Suprematism, to the 
relative exclusion of those phases that led him both into 
and out of its path. Thus it provides greater insight into 
the most important phase of his career and broadens his 
oeuvre with major works. 

Our point of departure is a selection of eight drawings 
for the decor of the Futurist opera Pobeda nad solnstem 
(Victory Over the Sun), on which Malevich collaborated 
with Kruchenykh and Mikhail Matiushm in 1913. While 
five of these drawings are well known, they are joined for 
the first time by three additional sketches from the 
Khardzhiev-Chaga Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam 
(pp. 101-03). The drawings are representative of 
Malevich's Cubo-Futunst style, but they have also long 
been regarded as the "unconscious" starting point for 
Suprematism. Each of the compositions is framed within 
the format of a square — later the primary Suprematist 
element — and the profusion of planar geometric forms 
that invade the pictorial space looks forward to more 
dynamic, nonobjective studies done in 1915 (pp. 149, 
1 68). In this regard, Malevich's Study for the Decor of 
Victory Over the Sun, Act 2, Scene 5 ( 1 91 3, p. 1 00), which 
as the singularly nonobjective work in this early group has 
historically been held up as prefiguring later Suprematist 
ideas without truly resembling a known Suprematist 
composition, finally compares nicely to both the roughly 
contemporaraneous Cubo-Futurist Composition: Man 

Smoking a Pipe (1 91 3, p. 111) and the later Suprematism: 
Square on a Diagonal Surface (1 91 5, p. 1 33), where the 
division of the square into contrasting zones of light and 
dark takes three distinct but related tacks. 

The other early works to prefigure Malevich's 
Suprematist phase are the Alogic compositions of 
1 9 1 4- 1 5, examples of transrational (zaum) realism repre- 
sented here by three major paintings and nine drawings. 
Malevich's Alogic works are playful and cryptic, employing 
abstract geometric form more freely than his previous 
Cubo-Futurist works. In the same way that the transra- 
tional verse of poets like Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh 
attempted to open up new possibilities in language 
through an intuitive, absurdist aesthetic that challenged all 
sense of commonly accepted reason (as in the libretto for 
Victory Over the Sun, for instance), Malevich's Alogic 
works were experiments with visual form intended to 
confound conventional picture making, inventing new 
relations or associations derived from a "random" collision 
between seemingly unrelated images and shapes. "We 
come to the rejection of reason," Malevich wrote, "but 
this has been possible only because a different form of 
reason has arisen within us. . . . It has its own law and 
construction and also meaning, and only in the light of 
this knowledge will our work be based on a totally new, 
transrational precept." 32 Alternately compacted and open, 
the Alogic works, which combine images of "real" 
elements such as animals, utensils, and musical instru- 
ments with abstract shapes, are critical for understanding 
how Malevich would end up inventing a new visual 
language that, while inherently nonobjective in appear- 
ance, continued for many years to refer to things in the 
real world. Thus, in a work like Suprematism: Painterly 


. n-fl^..^. C 

i .,,.■. ,,,,.. 


~.^U- *~: rr _ &^*Jn*jt- 



1927, pencil on paper, 8'/s x )0Vt inches 

(20 6 x 26.7 cm) 

Kupferstichkabmett, Off en tliche Kunstsammlung Basel 

Realism of a Football Player. Color Masses in the Fourth 
Dimension (1915, p. 146), the direct descendant of 
Malevich's ideas about the transrational, the composition 
is confusing if interpreted as attempting to represent 
something real; instead, it has its own inherent logic, one 
that is both self-referential and remotely tied to experi- 
ences in everyday life. Even the "logic" of the work's 
orientation is open to question: there is no one correct 
direction in which to view the work. Assumptions of up, 
down, or sideways are thrown into chaos, at least they 
were in Malevich's lifetime, when he was fond of display- 
ing works in various ways, constantly redefining the way 
in which a given composition resolved itself visually (hence 
the alternate orientations of a few works reproduced in 
this essay and in the exhibition views illustrated in the 
"Letters and Documents" section). 

The exhibition finally unfolds into the orthodox space 
of Suprematism, opening with the basic Suprematist 
forms of the square, circle, and cross and ending with 
Malevich's early forays into figurative adaptations of 
Suprematist principles in the late 1920s. While Malevich 
painted four versions of Black Square during his career, 33 
this exhibition marks the first occasion that the original 
painting from 1915 is being shown outside Russia. This is 
significant in and of itself, but Black Square is also accom- 
panied in the exhibition by its three siblings of the same 
primary phase, Black Cross ( 1 9 1 5, p. 121), Black Circle 
(1915, p. 120) and Elongated Plane (191 5, p. 123), the 
latter two of which have never been shown since they 
were first exhibited by Malevich. Elongated Plane was 
heretofore known only through a documentary photo- 
graph of Posledniaia futuristicheskaia vystavka kartin, 
"0. 10" (nul-desat): The Last Futurist Exhibition of 


Paintings: "0. 10" [Zero-Ten 1, held in Petrograd in 1915, 
and its variant form illustrated in The Nonobjective World 
(p. 26). And while Black Square, Black Circle, and Black 
Cross have been shown together many times in their 
1920s versions (all of which are in the collection of the 
State Russian Museum), the 1915 paintings offer a 
completely different experience. They are more intimate 
in scale and more densely painted, and they contain the 
scumbled surfaces, intensity of brushwork, and aura of 
intuition that is completely absent in the more resolved, 
chalky, and thinly rendered versions of the 1920s. Thus 
we have the opportunity for the first time to regard 
Malevich's primary Suprematist objects as a group in their 
original versions. 

Two other Khardzhiev works from this period, which 
were also previously known only through documentary 
photographs or references in correspondence, offer even 
more insight into Malevich's painterly skill. Pictorial 
Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions, called 
Red Square (1915, p 127), which at one time belonged to 
Malevich's comrade Matiushin, is the first of two versions, 
and again this first work, which in this case might predate 
the other by only several months, is more richly composed 
and intimate in scale. 34 The ruby red pigment of the 
square form has a depth and glow that is in stark contrast 
to the flatter, more evenly composed orange-red of its 
relative, and unlike the later work, which is square in 
shape overall, here the red form is situated slightly askew 
on a white rectangular field, placing it within the context 
of paintings like Painterly Realism. Boy with Knapsack- 
Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension (1915, p. 128) and 
Suprematist Painting. Black Rectangle, Blue Triangle 
(1915, p. 129). However, Suprematist Composition with 


1915. oil on canvas. 26 >ies 

(66 5 x 57 

Stedel'ik Museum. Amsterdam 


Plane in Projection (191 5, p. 131) is unlike any other 
painting by Malevich in form, composition, and technique. 
Known until now only through a documentary photo- 
graph of it from Malevich's 1920 exhibition (p. 255), the 
painting has a thick, enamel-like surface that is uncharac- 
teristically tight. It appears that Malevich often painted 
over the surface of works before they had completely 
dried in these early years, so the compositions are often 
crackled, as in the extreme case of the 191 5 Black Square. 
The surface of Suprematist Composition with Plane in 
Projection, however, remains intact, perhaps because of 
some variation in the ingredients of the pigment, for its 
milky white ground is almost without parallel in his works 
of this year or any other period. The painting has the qual- 
ity of an enameled object, due to both the rich luster and 
depth afforded by the lapus blue pigment and the 
lacquer-like smoothness of its white ground. 

The next, more dynamic phase of Suprematism, from 
1915 to 1917 (pp. 165, 174, 141), is highlighted by 
another work formerly belonging to Khardzhiev, also 
previously known only through a photograph and very 
different from its contemporaries in form and conception: 
Suprematist Composition (1915, p. 149), illustrated here 
but not included in the exhibition. Whereas other paint- 
ings close to it in date (such as Suprematist Painting: Eight 
Red Rectangles [1915, p. 1 43] and Suprematist Painting 
[1 91 6, p. 1 77]) are characterized by multicolored forms 
bound to one another by the appearance of magnetic or 
static order, even when the forms appear to hang freely in 
space, Suprematist Composition offers a cacophony of 
tumbling black shapes, offset by a small yellow circle. It 
thus expands upon Malevich's vocabulary of this period in 
a way that is entirely unique, providing a substantial 

example of formal ideas previously known in his work only 
through minor drawings (p. 168). 

Yet another rediscovered work, Dissolution of a Plane 
(1917, p. 191), is by far the largest Suprematist painting 
by Malevich, and, as such, it has a dramatic, almost 
imposing presence. Previously identified as one of the key 
24 forms in his Suprematist repertoire through one of the 
drawings for The Nonobjective World (p. 40), it belongs to 
the next phase of Malevich's work, when compositions 
took on greater associations with magnetic and acoustic 
resonance and states of feeling linked to ethereal form or 
existence. As in its more famous sibling, Suprematist 
Painting (1917-18, p. 193), a large planar form dissolves 
into the infinite expanse of a white void, rendered even 
more successfully here by virtue of the plane's disappear- 
ance from the picture at the top-right and lower-right 
corners; it literally recedes from the painting to an imagi- 
nary plane beyond. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Suprematism of 
the Mind (Suprematism of the Spirit) (1 920, p. 227), a 
more static composition known through its many itera- 
tions in drawing and graphic form but until now unknown 
as a painting. Dating from the period during which the 
spiritual dimensions of Suprematism became more 
formally linked with religious painting through Malevich's 
adaptation of the Orthodox cross (as in the two versions 
of Suprematism (Mystic Suprematism) [1 920-22, pp. 
230-31]), Suprematism of the Mind is literally a 
Suprematist icon, painted on a wooden panel, entirely 
unique as such in his oeuvre, and as compelling in its 
modest scale as Dissolution of a Plane is in its enormity. 

Finally, a recently restored architekton, Suprematist 
Architectural Model (1927, p. 209), is reintroduced into 


the now sparse inventory of architectural forms created by 
Malevich in the early to mid-1920s. Its significance is 
discussed at length in Tatiana Mikhienko's essay. Along 
with several other partially original and partially recon- 
structed architektons and a small selection of utilitarian 
objects, the model presents a very cogent articulation of 
Malevich's application of Suprematist principles into the 
realm of the practical. 

The exhibition also benefits from new information 
about the dating of works, something that is extremely 
complex in his oeuvre due as much to his own habit of 
intentionally misdating pieces as to any previously missing 
evidence. (Malevich insisted, for example, that Black 
Square and other works were created in 1913 rather than 
1915.) Here again, we have benefited from the letters and 
documents in the Khardzhiev archive, as well as from the 
recent publication of Andrei Nakov's first volume of the 
catalogue raisonne. But while the sequence of works in 
this publication reflects certain assumptions about 
chronology, it is not absolute in this regard: certain works 
have been grouped together as much according to formal 
relationships as to their dates. 

At the beginning of this essay, it was suggested that 
this project seeks a more in-depth look at Malevich's 
Suprematism than has previously been undertaken. This 
has been afforded by a greater concentration of his 
Suprematist paintings and drawings than in earlier posthu- 
mous exhibitions of Malevich's work. As one of the 
project's premises, we decided not to include the very 
important work of his students, which would make for a 
much larger, if not more comprehensive undertaking 
Indeed, his work as a teacher cannot be absolutely sepa- 
rated from his work as an artist, something suggested in 

Vasilii Rakitin's and Nina Gounanova's essays, and made 
compellingly clear in a recent exhibition presented in 
Russia. 3 '' However, we chose here to be more orthodox, 
also stopping at the threshold of the phase in the late 
1920s and early 1930s when Malevich returned to the 
human figure. The few works included here from that 
phase (pp. 130, 232, 233) demonstrate how his first itera- 
tions of the Suprematist figure are inseparable from 
certain formulations of the Crucifixion in abstract form by 
Malevich, and thus are representative of the increasingly 
mystical connotations that he brought to his art toward 
the end of his life. The works that followed upon these 
took an entirely different tack, beginning a new, albeit 
truncated, chapter in Malevich's art that, in the end, is a 
very different story than the one told here. 



1 Of course, while his works were 
widely collected by Russian museums in 
his lifetime, their subsequent repression 
in the 1930s kept them hidden from the 
public eye until the late 1980s. The five 
solo exhibitions of Malevich's work held 
during his lifetime were 76-a;a gos 
Vystavka PersonaTnaja vystavka K. 5 
Malevica Ego put' ot impressionizma k 
suprematizu . Salles B Dimitrovka 
(formerly Salon K Mikhailova), Moscow, 
opened March 25, 1920, Wystawa 
Kazimiera Malewica, Club of Polish 
Artists, Hotel Polonia, Warsaw, March 
20-25, 1927; Sonderausstellung 
Malewitsch, part of Grosse Berliner 
Kunstausstellung, Lehrter Bahnhof, 
Berlin, May 7-September 30, 1927, 
Vystavka proizvednii K. S. Malevicha, 
State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, opened 
November 1, 1929; and Personalnaia 
vystavka Malevicha, Kiev Picture Gallery, 
ca April-June 1930. 

2. Kazimir Malevich, "Suprematism" 
(before 1927), in Troels Andersen, ed , 
K. S. Malevich: The Artist, Infinity, 
Suprematism, Unpublished Writings 
1913-1933 (Borgen Copenhagen, 
1978), p. 146 

3. Ernst Kallai, "Kazimir Malevich," 
Kunstblatt, no 7 (1927). The full review 
appears in the Documents section of this 

4. See Alexandre Benois, "The Last 
Futurist Exhibition," transcript of speech 
delivered on January 1, 1916, in the 
Documents section of this publication 

5 S lutkevich, "Sukharnaia stolitsa," 
LEF, no. 3(1923), p. 183 

6. See, for example, the following text in 
the Documents section of this publica- 
tion: Letter from Malevich to David 
Shterenberg, February 16. 1921, Vitebsk. 

7. Russian art was by no means a 
complete mystery to the West, but this 
was the first show to focus more on 
developments in Russia as opposed to 
the work of emigre artists such as 
Alexander Archipenko, Lev Bakst, 
Alexandre Benois, Marc Chagall, Natalia 
Goncharova, Vasily Kandinsky, Mikhail 

Lanonov, and Ivan Puni, whose art had 
already been shown in gallery exhibitions 
in France and Germany See The First 
Russian Show: A Commemoration of the 
Van Deimen Exhibition Berlin 1922, exh 
cat (London Annely Juda Fine Art. 

8 Veshch/Gegestand/Ob/et. no 1-2 
(March-April 1922), unpaginated 

9 See the letter from the Kestner 
Gesellschaft, Hannover, to Malevich, 
December 30, 1924, in the Documents 
section of this publication. 

1 Malevich could be referring here to 
the large presentation of Russian art at 
the Exposition international des arts 
decoratifs et mdustnels modernes 
(International Exhibition of Modern 
Decorative and Industrial Arts), Grand 
Palais, Paris, 1925 

1 1 . See the petition from Malevich to 
Glavnauka requesting permission to 
travel abroad, ca. December 9, 1925, in 
the Documents section of this publica- 

12. See, for example, the following 
reviews in the Documents section of this 
publication Konrad Vmkler, The 
Exhibition of Prof Malevich in the Club 
of Polish Artists and the Theory of 
Suprematism, Kuner Poranny (No 89, 
March 30, 1927) and Jan Klescinski, 
Suprematism (excerpt from the article 
"Idea and Form Essays on the 
Development of Polish Art" Warsaw, 

ca. 1931).. 

13 See Presences Polonais: L'art vivant 
autour du Musee de Lodz, exh cat 
(Pans: Musee National d'Art Moderne, 
Centre Georges Pompidou, 1983) 

14. The full set of original drawings for 
this book, some of which are reproduced 
here, are in the collection of the 
Kupferstichkabinett of the Kunstmuseum 
Basel They contain inscriptions by 
Malevich in Russian and German pertain- 
ing to the significance of each form, and 
many also carry the spurious date of 
1913, this has contributed over the years 
to confusion in dating Malevich's first 
Suprematist work. 

15 His reputation as a convoluted writer 
was already a subject of some discus- 
sion Consider Anatole Lunacharsky's 
remarks (cited in the Documents section 
of this publication): "I heard the 
Germans were also taken aback by his 
writings I made an attempt to read the 
grandiloquent and obscure theoretical 
works by the leader of the 
Suprematists.' In a confused manner, he 
seems to try to somehow link his goals 
and path with the Revolution and with 
God." See also Jean-Claude Marcade's 
essay in this publication 

16. See the review by Lunacharsky in the 
Documents section of this publication. 

17. The circumstances of his departure 
from Germany and the eventual dispersal 
of his works left there are well docu- 
mented. See, for instance, Joop Joosten, 
"Malevich in the Stedelijk Museum," in 
Kazimir Malevich, 1878-1935, exh. cat 
(Leningrad: State Russian Museum, 
Moscow: State Tretiakov Gallery; and 
Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1988), 
pp. 44-54, and "Berlin 1927," in 
Kazimir Malevich 1878-1935, exh cat 
(Los Angeles: Armand Hammer Museum 
of Art and Cultural Center, 1990), 

pp 22-27 

18. See, for example, the following 
commentaries in the Documents section 
of this publication: A. Fiodorov-Davydov, 
"Iskusstvo K.S. Malevicha." And I. V. 
Kliun, Problema tsveta vzhivopisi 
1928-1929, Maliarnoie Deb (No. 2, 

19. See the commentary by S. 
Yefimovich in the Documents section of 
this publication. 

20. The full transcript of his examination 
is published for the first time in this 
volume (see the Documents section). 

21 Ibid. 

22 For an excellent summary and evalu- 
ation of this work and Malevich's dates 
in general, see Elena Bassner, "Malevich's 
Paintings in the Collection of the Russian 
Museum (The Matter of the Artist's 
Creative Evolution)," in Kazimir Malevich 
in the Russian Museum (St. Petersburg 
Palace Editions, 2000), pp. 15-27. 


23 See. for example, Louis Lozowick, 
Modem Russian Art (New York Museum 
of Modern Art, Societe Anonyme, Inc 

1 925), Cubism and Abstract Art. exh 
cat (New York: Museum of Modern Art. 
1936), Fantastic Art. Dada. and 
Surrealism, exh cat (New York: Museum 
of Modern Art, 1936), Konstruktivisten 
IConstructivists). exh cat (Basel 
Kunsthalle. 1937), The Collection of the 
Societe Anonyme, exh cat. (New Haven: 
Yale University Art Gallery, published for 
the Associates in Fine Arts, 1950); 
Kasimir Malewitsch, exh , cat. 
(Braunschweig Kunstverein 
Brauschweig. 1958), Kasimir Malevich. 
1878-1935. exh cat (London 
Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1959): Casimir 
Malevic. exh cat (Rome Gallena 
Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, 1959), Two 
Decades of Experiment in Russian Art, 
1902-1922. exh. cat. (London. 
Grosvenor Gallery, 1962). Camilla Gray, 
The Great Experiment Russian Art, 
1863-1922 (London: Thames and 
Hudson, 1962); and Art in Revolution: 
Soviet Art and Design since 1917. exh 
cat (London: Hayward Gallery, 1971). 

24 See the accompanying publication, 
Troels Andersen, Malevich: Catalogue 
Raisonne of the Berlin Exhibition, 1927, 
including the Collection in the Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam (Amsterdam: 
Stedelijk Museum, 1970). 

25. Donald Judd, "Malevich: 
Independent Form, Color, Surface." Art 
in America, vol 62, no. 2 (March-April 
1974), pp 52-58; reprinted in Donald 
Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975 
(New York: New York University Press, 
1975). pp. 21 1-15 There is much more 
to be said on this subject, and I am 
currently working on an article dealing 
more specifically with the question of 
Malevich and American art in the 1960s 
and 1970s. I am grateful to Rudi Fuchs 
for his suggestions on the topic 

26 Of particular importance here are the 
many exhibitions organized by Annely 
Juda Fine Art in London, Galerie 
Gmurzynska in Cologne, and Leonard 
Hutton, Inc., in New York beginning in 
the 1970s Their efforts in bringing art 
out of Russia made ensuing museum 
projects possible 

27 See Malevitch. exh cat (Pans 
Musee National d'Art Moderne. Centre 
Georges Pompidou, 1978) 

28 See Milda Viktunna and Alia 
Lukanova. "A Study of Technique: Ten 
Paintings by Malevich in the Tretiakov 
Gallery," in Kazimir Malevich 1878-1935 
(Los Angeles Armand Hammer Museum 
of Art and Cultural Center, 1990). pp 
187-97. The exhibition also traveled to 
the National Gallery of Art. Washington 
and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York 

29. The Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art organized a broad survey of the 
Russian avant-garde in 1980, but it was 
less comprehensive than the 
Guggenheim exhibition, and. characteris- 
tic of scholarship from this period, its 
catalogue, while noteworthy for the 
scope of its subject matter, contains 
occasionally erroneous information See 
Stephanie Barron and Maurice Tuchman, 
eds , The Avant-garde in Russia, 
1910-1 930: New Perspectives 
(Cambridge, Mass MIT Press, 1980) 

30 Khardzhiev originally intended to 
emigrate to Sweden in the late 1970s 
With the assistance of his friend and 
colleague Roman Jakobson, the cele- 
brated linguist who successfully 
emigrated to the United States earlier in 
the decade, he was put in contact with 
Bengt Jangfeldt, a former Jakobson 
student living in Stockholm, The plan 
was for Jangfeldt to set up a publishing 
house for Russian literature. Gileia, as a 
cover for getting Khardzhiev out of the 
country, using money from the sale of 
artworks belonging to Khardzhiev, which 
he was to send from Russia to Sweden. 
According to a piece of correspondence 
dated August 28, 1977, four works by 
Malevich were sent to Jangfeldt 
Suprematism with Micro-crossing 
Elements (79 x 79 cm). Elongated 
Square/Ochre (79 x 70 5 cm); Whife on 
Black/White Square (79 x 79 cm), and 
Black Cross (79 x 79 cm) While 
Khardzhiev's bid for emigration failed at 
that time, the paintings were never 
returned to him In this same piece of 
correspondence, Khardzhiev gave power 
of attorney to a Dr Rosemaire Ziegler of 

Vienna, either to collect the money from 
the sale of the works or to arrange for 
their return to him She was apparently 
unsuccessful in either regard Black Cross 
(1915. p 121) eventually ended up in 
the collection of the Musee National 
d'Art Moderne. Paris, in 1978 via 
Swedish dealer William Aronowitsch, 
who was assisted by legal counsel Tor 
Stenholm, whose wife was Stockholm's 
chief prosecutor at the time I visited 
with Aronowitsch, Jakobson, and 
Stenholm in February 2001 to ascertain 
the whereabouts of the other three 
pictures, which are allegedly in the 
possession of a private collector in 
Stockholm. However, they declined to 
discuss the matter further For correspon- 
dence and documents related to this 
episode, see Hella Rottenberg. Meesters, 
marodeurs De lotgevallen van de collec- 
tie-ChardZjiev (Amsterdam Uitgevenj Jan 
Mets, 1999) In some of his letters to 
Jakobson, Khardzhiev condemned 
Jangfeldt for deceiving him, referring to 
the episode as "the theft of the 

31 Khardzhiev was unable to export his 
entire collection of books, documents, 
manuscripts, and artworks from Russia, 
and the holdings are now divided 
between the Khardzhiev-Chaga Cultural 
Foundation in Amsterdam and RGAU 
(the Russian State Archive of Literature 
and Art) in Moscow. See John E. Bowlt 
and Mark Konecny. eds., A Legacy 
Regained: Nikolai Khardzhiev and the 
Russian Avant-Garde (St Petersburg 
Palace Editions. 2002, which includes an 
excellent selection and translation of 
documentary materials as well as essays 
placing this new information in context 

32. Malevich, letter to Mikhail Matiushin, 
June 1913, cited in Evgenn Kovtun, 
"Kazimir Malevich: His Creative Path," in 
Kazimir Malevich, 1878-1935. exh cat 
(Leningrad State Russian Museum, 
Moscow State Tretiakov Gallery; and 
Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, 1988). 
p 154 

33 The first version, from 1915, is in the 
collection of the State Tretiakov Gallery. 
Moscow, the second, from ca 1923. is 
in the State Russian Museum, St 
Petersburg, the third, from 1929. is also 
in the Tretiakov. and the fourth, from the 
1930s, is in the State Hermitage 
Museum, St Petersburg 

34 The second painting is in the collec- 
tion of the State Russian Museum. St 

35 See In Malevich's Circle 
Confederates, Students, Followers in 
Russia, 1 920s- 1 950s, exh cat (St 
Petersburg State Russian Museum, 













In a passage from his famous lithographed pamphlet Suprematizm: 
34 risunka (Suprematism: 34 Drawings, dated December 1 5, 
1920, and written and published in Vitebsk), 1 Kazimir Malevich, 
founder of the most radical abstraction to emerge from the his- 
toric European avant-garde of 1910-20, sets forth the relationship 
between pictorial practice and philosophical and/or theoretical 
writing: "The white square that I painted made possible analyzing 
it and writing a pamphlet on the 'pure act.' 2 The black square 
defined the economy that I introduced as the fifth measure in 
art. The question of economy became the main vantage point 
from which I examine all the creations of the world of things 
(which is my main work) no longer with a brush, but a pen. As a 
result, it seems as if it is not possible to obtain with the brush what 
can be obtained with the pen. The brush is tattered, and can 
obtain nothing in the twists and turns of the mind; the pen is 
sharper." At the end of this short text, he states: "I myself have 
retreated into the domain of thought, which is new to me, and 
insofar as is possible, I will set forth what I espy in the infinite 
space of the human skull." 3 



Malevich gives a chronological and logical order to theory 
and practice, with theory following after the created work. 
Of course, the artist is constantly thinking while creating: 
the act of thinking and the act of making are inextricably 
linked in Suprematist art. For all that, Suprematist painting 
is not philosophical painting, for this would situate it in ill u- 
sionism. Rather, it is painting in philosophical action. When 
Malevich writes, "This hard, cold, humorless system is set 
in motion by philosophical thought," 4 or, "In one of its 
stages, Suprematism has a purely philosophical movement, 
a movement of cognition through color," 5 he means that 
the pictorial and the philosophical (the noetic) come 
together in a single act, an act that clearly reveals the 
world as the objectless (mir kak bespredmetnost). 

When he ventures into the "domain of thought" and 
begins to write, Malevich disassociates these two indivisible 
stages of creative work; he looks into the act of the 
creative mind, into the noetic act that coincides with the 
intuitive act of creation. The painter of the 1915 Black 
Square is clear on the subject: 

The Suprematist stage as a new circumstance showed me that 
three stages occurred within its prism, one of color and two stages 
distinguished by the absence of color — black and white — in accor- 
dance with the forms of the three squares. This was accomplished 
intuitively [stikhiino], without regard for the reason of their 
meaning, on which I am attempting to shed light today. I estab- 
lished ... my Suprematist line and the line of life in general as 
energy, and I found their similarity to a graph on the movement 
of color. Three stages were elucidated in Suprematism: color, 
black, and white, which made it possible for me to build a graph 
and to elucidate the future in the white square, in terms of a new 
white period in the construction of the world of objectless 
Suprematism. 6 

The painter Anna Leporskaia, who was very close to 
Malevich from the late 1920s to his death in 1935, empha- 
sized the spontaneous, instinctive, even unexpected 
character of the emergence of Black Square. She reports 
that the painter "did not know, did not understand what 
exactly constituted the black square. He realized that this 
was such an important event in his artistic career that for a 
whole week (so he himself related) he could neither drink 
nor eat nor sleep." 7 


With regard to the "brush" and the "pen," Malevich tells 
us that the former is "tattered, and can obtain nothing in 
the twists and turns of the mind" and that the latter is 
"sharper." In saying that the pen, which writes and tran- 
scribes thought, goes to the innermost depths of the 
world's authenticity, the painter is also implying that the 
brush and the pen search for the same thing: the authentic 
living world, the rhythms of universal excitement, the 
objectless world, a nonfigurative God. Writing and art, pen 
and brush therefore say the same thing. They have identi- 
cal, if not similar, sites. Because they complement each 
other in their search, saying the same thing in different 
ways, writing and art are, in the best and special cases, in a 
state of dialogue, colloquium, explanation — just as we say 
"we'll talk it through." 

For Malevich, therefore, writing is necessary to under- 
standing his own creation. Two aspects coexist in his 
writings: the development of a thought on being, on what 
is, an ontology; and an explanation, according to this 
ontology, of Suprematism as the outcome of a pictorial 
process that began with Paul Cezanne. Malevich's texts 
thus present us with both an original philosophy — several 


theorists, in particular the French philosopher Emmanuel 
Martineau, 8 have been able to place it within the history of 
Western philosophy — and an account of the different 
stages and meaning of Suprematism 

The case of Malevich is unique in the history of art 
because he was both a great painter and a great thinker. 
Many painters from Leonardo da Vinci to Vasily Kandinsky 
have left their philosophical thoughts, but Malevich created 
an ontological system, a reflection on beings (das Seiende), 
referred to in his writings as "phenomena" (iavlenie), 
"circumstances" (obstoiatelstva), "distinctions" (otlichiia), 
"differences" (razlichiia), and "being" (bytie). 

"Professional philosophers" have always been suspi- 
cious of painters who write. A great mind who displayed 
this skepticism was the philosopher-medievalist Etienne 
Gilson, who writes: 

Being a painter doesn't prevent the artist from also being a writer, 
but he won't be able to practice both at the same time. Real 
painters are well aware that they must choose between painting, 
writing, or speaking. 5 

Given that Malevich stopped painting almost entirely when 
he retreated into the "domain of thought" between 1920 
and 1924, Gilson's comments appear to substantiate criti- 
cisms leveled at Martineau and myself some years ago that 
claimed we had forgotten Malevich was a painter when 
we took the plunge into his writings. Gilson also writes: 

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(VITEBSK. 1919) 

When they write or talk about their art, painters have as much 
difficulty as other men have in expressing themselves on a subject 
that is, in essence, foreign to language. They have the great 
advantage of knowing what they are trying to talk about, but 
even in the best cases — Constable, Delacroix, or Fromentin, for 
example — a painter who writes is a writer, not a painter The 
worst cases are those in which, instead of speaking about 


experience, the painter begins to philosophize. Most often, he 
then only echoes philosophical notions that have become banal, 
and in this framework, he endeavors to uphold his personal expe- 
rience rather than redefine these notions to adapt them to 
himself. 10 

Yet Malevich proves Gilson's statement wrong. Martineau, 
a Gilson student in spirit, takes up the question of "writing 
and art" where Gilson left off. He raises the problem of the 
relationship between Malevich's ontology and phenome- 
nology. Martineau does not say "Malevich-philosopher" or 
"Malevich's philosophy"; he says, "Malevich and philoso- 
phy," denoting the dialogue that the writing painter has 
with an entire tradition of philosophy from its origins, 
which he found in the "twists and turns of the mind," 
without any philosophy training to prepare him. 
Martineau, who, in 1977, only had access to a part of the 
Malevich's writings (since only a portion of them had been 
translated from Russian by this time), asserts: 

The complete work of Malevich — writing and painting — has the 
unique property in which, for the first time since painters have 
borne a relationship to literature, writing is of equal importance, 
strictly equal to painting — even to the extent that the autonomy 
of the latter, without having to be naturally called into question, 
is essentially questionable." 


To most of Malevich's contemporaries, the language in 
Bog ne skinut: Iskusstvo, Tserkov, Fabrika (God Is Not Cast 
Down: Art, Church, Factory, 1922) may have seemed 
muddled, barely intelligible, incorrect, without beginning 
or end. Indeed, some years earlier, Alexandre Benois, the 
leader of the World of Art movement, had dismissed 
the pamphlet distributed by Malevich at Posledniaia 

futuristicheskaia vystavka kartin, "0. 10" (nul-desat) (The 
Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings, "0. 10" [Zero-Ten]) in 
Petrograd at the end of 1915 (along with pamphlets by 
Ivan Puni, Ksenia Boguslavskaia, Mikhail Menkov, and Ivan 
Kliun) as "not worth the paper it's written on 
[bumazhonka]." He likened these artists, Malevich in 
particular, to the devils of Gergesenes from the Gospel 
according to Matthew (Matthew 8:28-34), and suggested 
that, like them, they "go away into a herd of swine and 
disappear into the depths of the sea! " n The same attacks 
were voiced in response to God Is Not Cast Down, distrib- 
uted in Vitebsk. Boris Arvatov, a Communist critic and 
champion of Productivist Art, reviled the abstruse language 
in Malevich's treatise, calling it "some kind of pathological 
ventriloquy and degenerate madness [vyrozhdentsa], by 
someone who imagines himself a prophet." 13 The Marxist 
critic Sergei Isakov, who was among those who had 
defended Vladimir Tatlin's counter-reliefs in 1915, 
denounced the "fruitionless philosophy of the Absolute 
[nedogovorennaia filosofiia Absoliuta}" that had come 
forth from the "grossly muddled pamphlet [vesma sumbur- 
naia knizhechka] God Is Not Cast Down. " ,4 

We could list further examples that simply note the 
nonnormative character of Malevich's language. Some are 
indignant about his texts and reject them as nothing more 
than strings of meaningless sentences. Translations often 
tone down his writing, "fix it," or "straighten it out." 15 As 
a result, Malevich is not particularly accessible. Many give 
up on close study of the texts and stop at an impression of 
chaos and muddle; they refuse to admit value in philosoph- 
ical Suprematism and focus only on Malevich's undeniable 
genius as a painter. Others make do with revealing the so- 
called astructural and contradictory character of the 


author's thought in, for example, Suprematizm: Mir kak 
bespredmetnost Hi vechnyi pokoi {Suprematism: The World 
as the Objectless or Eternal Rest, early 1920s). 

"What a shame it is that I am not a writer," Malevich 
wrote to the wife of the literary critic and thinker Mikhail 
Gershenzon. 16 In fact, the kind of writer he was referring to 
is the man of letters whose profession it is to write. It is 
true that Malevich's style often includes anacoluthon 
(syntactical inconsistency) and that his syntax is difficult; 
and yet, when we read this very letter, we discover the 
author's narrative talent, his powerful images and humor. 
This makes us think that his confession of not being a 
writer is a case of paralepsis. 

The literary critic Nikolai Khardzhiev reports that 
Malevich told him: "I don't like redoing and repeating 
what has already been written. It bores me to death! I 
write something else. But I write poorly. I'll never learn." 17 
Khardzhiev comments: 

The energy of his "heavy style" was appreciated by few. Even one 
of Malevich's closest students, El Lissitzky, who translated his articles 
into German, thought that his "grammar [was] completely the 
wrong way round." And yet Malevich had the remarkable quality 
of being able to capture the process of living thought. He wrote 
with extraordinary speed and practically without making changes. 8 

This "remarkable quality of being able to capture the 
process of living thought" is the fundamental quality of 
Malevich's writing. Like a poet's writing, it is both "pure" 
and "naked," stirred by the "tempest of rhythm." 19 It is 
enlivened by the same impetuous movements of the 
painter, whose "mind burns" and in whom blaze "rays 
that come from the colors of nature." 20 

Fire is a frequent image in Malevich's thought. On the 
"historial" path beautifully traced by Jacques Derrida from 

Holderlm to Heidegger 
(through Trakl), on the path 
of those who are impas- 
sioned, who set themselves 
afire, 21 stands Malevich: 
"Excitement [i.e., the spirit 
of the sensation of being 
objectless] is a cosmic flame 
that lives on that which is 
objectless." 22 Elsewhere 
Malevich writes: 




VERLAG. 1927) 

1927, pencil on paper. 8 

Kupferstichkabineu, Offe Sasel 

Excitement, like molten copper in 
a blast furnace, seethes in a state 
that is purely objectless. Excite- 
ment-combustion is the supreme 
white force that sets thought 
into motion. Excite-ment is like 
the flame of a volcano that flick- 
ers within a human being without the goal of meaning. A human 
being is like a volcano of excitements whereas thought is 
concerned with perfections. 23 

In a very Nietzschean passage from an unpublished 
1923 essay, Malevich writes: 

Marinetti and I spent our childhood and youth at the summit of 
Mount Etna; we only spoke to the devils that appeared in Etna's 
smoke. We were mystics then, but the devils always tempted us 
with materialist science and proved that art had to be just as 
materialist. It is true that I was a bit slow to understand, but 
Marinetti, well, he took this idea to heart and wrote a manifesto 
that praised factory chimneys and everything produced inside 
factories.'' 1 

It is interesting to note that the founder of Suprematism 
named Pablo Picasso and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti as 


the two pillars, the two "prisms," of the new art of the 
twentieth century. 25 The influence of Marinetti on 
Malevich's style and expression is undeniable. The writings 
of both have the same tone, turns of phrase, and lexicon. 
Malevich adopted Marinetti's Futurist exclamatory rhetoric, 
his sometimes lampoonish satirical manner, and his apho- 
ristic habits, each clause rapping out the discourse like a 
command, a slogan. 26 

In Malevich's work, Marinetti's influence was combined 
with the influence of Russian "beyondsense" (zaum) poet- 
ics, that of Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh in 
particular, with both of whom Malevich was very close. 27 
There is also a specific linguistic substratum in his literary 
work: Polish and especially Ukrainian expressions are often 
used to embellish a hyperbolic and baroque aesthetic. 

Marinetti's influence on the author of God Is Not Cast 
Down extended beyond the level of style and form, to the 
very inspiration that fills the painter's prose, to the realm of 
ideas: antiacademicism; antihedonism; antihumanism; the 
study of war; the question of economy, partially; the 
importance of white (which Marinetti had inherited from 
Stephane Mallarme); intuition that goes against reason; 
"geometric and mechanical splendor." 28 But it is clear that 
all that Malevich borrows, consciously or unconsciously, is 
integrated into an entirely new philosophy, one informed 
by an ontological perspective. 29 

Elsewhere I have discussed the importance for 
Malevich's intellectual development of the various vague 
and diffuse ideas that formed the Zeitgeist of the early 
twentieth century before World War I: religious socialism, 
the God-seekers and the God-builders, the empirical criti- 
cism of Richard Avenarius and Ernst Mach. 30 Special 
mention must, however, be made of Tertium Organum 

(1 91 1) by the theosophist Petr Ouspensky, which was read 
by the entire Russian avant-garde. We find a similar lexi- 
con, even similar thought, in Malevich's texts (though he 
was ironical about studies of the "new man," in particular 
those that revolved around India, which, he wrote, "always 
seem to end with a good cleansing of the stomach" 3 '). 
Tertium Organum, which contains a great number of 
extracts from philosophical texts from around the world, 
gave Malevich access to Eleatics, Plato, Plotinus, Clement 
of Alexandria, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Jacob 
Boehme, Kant, and Hindu and Chinese texts, all of which 
have points in common with Suprematist thought. I have 
also discussed elsewhere the importance of Malevich's 
dialogue with Gershenzon, 32 who encouraged him to 
write, and the impact that Gershenzon's book Troistvennyi 
obraz sovershenstva {The Triple Image of Perfection , 1918) 
had on his thinking. 33 Nevertheless, as Martineau has justly 
underscored, all these various influences, whether reli- 
gious, political, cosmogonal, or other, only allow us "better 
to reveal in Malevich, by contrast, the secret work of the 
question of being." 34 

We could discuss the Nietzschean thought and rhetoric 
in Suprematism: The World as the Objectless or Eternal 
Rest. The word "Suprematism" is itself Nietzschean, and 
we also find shades of Zarathustra when Malevich writes, 
for example: 

The ascent to the peaks of objectless art is arduous, painful. . . . 
And yet it brings happiness. The familiar retreats little by little. . . . 
The contours of the world of objects fade more with every 
moment; and the same thing continues in the world of figurative 
notions — everything that we loved and all from which we lived, 
becomes invisible. 35 

We could cite many other references, too, but, as the late 


Czech art historian Jin Padrta emphasized, Malevich was 
able to transform 

all this knowledge into the wild flame of his vision of the object- 
less world, which is expressed in the glow of his nonf igurative art. 
One thing is for certain: in no way does it simply involve a fairly 
original compilation of several borrowed systems, nor is it an 
impressive account of a body of knowledge, of the kind that occa- 
sionally emerged between Antiquity and the Enlightenment, and 
it certainly is not a simple replication of something, whether we 
want to consider it faithful or whether we allow for so-called 
distortion of genius (anything goes with untamed thought!) — 
there is, after all, a meticulously thought-out construct that is 
simultaneously being constantly shaken, a "Tower of Babel" rising 
to the objectless, and the author himself is at stake. 36 


Those of Malevich's texts published in Russian during his 
lifetime, followed in 1927 and 1962 by German translations 
of some of the previously unpublished manuscripts, 
presented Western readers — in fragments, but suffi- 
ciently — a philosophy of the objectless. 37 Even if this 
philosophy partially converged with existing philosophical 
movements (let us call them negative philosophies of the 
"Nothing"), it still formed a very personal body of thought. 

First and foremost, Malevich was unique in that he 
gave philosophical significance to the pairing of figuration 
(predmetnost) and the objectless (bespredmetnost), which 
emerged in the theory and criticism of art of the 1910s as a 
way to designate a new reality — the rise of nonfiguration 
and abstraction. In 1919, the Polish-Ukrainian-Russian 
painter stated: "In mentioning the objectless [in 1913-16], 
I only wanted to point out clearly that Suprematism does 
not treat of things, objects, etc., and that's all; the object- 
less, generally speaking, was beside the point." 38 Thus, the 




1927. pencil on paper. 8rt x tOtt inches 

(20 6 x 26 7 cm) 

Kupferslichkabineu. Oftentliche Kunstsammlung Basel 





*i£Zz:v£pn — 


W>^. *tU—* -^, '~*J.~yt*^ . 

painter clearly distinguished 
between the objectless as 
an operative mode in the 
plastic arts and "the object- 
less, generally speaking" — 
that is, in a philosophical, 
Suprematist sense. He 
deliberately did not seek a 
different word for the 
philosophical objectless. 
Malevich could have used 
objectivity (obektivnost) 
and nonobjectivity {neobek- 
tivnost) to describe both 
the philosophical objectless 
and nonfigurative art, 
which he does elsewhere, 39 
but according to my 
hypothesis, he did not 
choose to do so because 
did not acknowledge his project, instead associating his 
thought with that of various other doctrines. There is 
almost a certain "objectivity" in Suprematism, the objectiv- 
ity of the objectless, of the total absence of the object. 
Although the painter denies objectivity in terms of pictur- 
ing an object since "the human being cannot picture 
anything," 40 and although the traditional conflict in philos- 
ophy between subject and object means nothing to him, 
it is still the case that all is one, that if there is nothing 
outside, then nothing is what is. It is this nothing that 
Suprematism wants to release from the weight of the 
figurative (i.e., of objects [predmetnyi]). This is precisely the 

1927, pencil on paper, 8'A x 6Vi inches 
(21x16 5 cm) 

Kupferstichkabmett, Offenthche 
Kunstsammlung Basel 

crux of the painter's philosophical thought: the impossibil- 
ity of being able to picture, to picture oneself, to represent, 
to represent oneself. The "Suprematist mirror" 
(Suprematicheskoe zerkalo) is the zero, "the zero as the 
ring of transfiguration of all that is with-object 
[predmetnoe] into the objectless [bespredmetnoe}." 4] It is 
from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being 
begins. None of the traditional philosophical oppositions 
are appropriate in this case, which is why Malevich used 
vocabulary from the plastic arts in his reflections on being. 
Suprematism is not a philosophy of negation in a dialectical 
process; it is a philosophy of "without," of absence. 

Even before many of Malevich's little-known texts had 
been reprinted in Russian (in particular, those originally 
published in the Moscow newspaper Anarkhiia (Anarchy) 
in 1918), 42 and even before the publication of some of his 
texts, 43 important writings by Malevich existed in German, 
English, and French translation. 44 The philosophical import 
of his writings continued to be confirmed as previously 
unpublished texts came out. Martineau, as mentioned 
earlier, was the first to include Malevich's writings in a 
historicity (Geschichtlichkeit) — that is, among the move- 
ments of thought since the dawn of philosophy 45 — so let 
us summarize, very generally, his interpretation of 
Suprematist writings. First and foremost, Martineau firmly 
asserts that the statements and affirmations made by the 
founder of Suprematism "are philosophical and are such in 
rigorous and eminent fashion." 46 There is a "silent and 
unconscious dialogue between phenomenology and 
Suprematism." 47 It is the experience of art that led 
Malevich to a new abstraction, that of the retreat (Entzug) 
of things toward the invisible zone of their provenance, 
from which is revealed "the essence of unchanging nature 


in all of its changing phenomena." 48 The "pictorial 
mission" of Suprematism is to "allow 'nature' to 'proceed' 
rhythmically to the diversity of its 'states' and allow each of 
these 'states,' through the miracle of color and technique, 
to reincarnate into new things that are nonobjective and 
restful in their 'spirit,' whether statically or dynamically" 49 
For Martineau, Suprematism is "transmetaphysical 
thought" 50 that seeks a new relationship with God: 
"Where Nietzsche leaves the overman without a world, 
and leaves his new relationship to the divine vague, 
Malevich is able to develop thought about the things of 
the world [mondaneite] of the overman, including a new 
figure of God." 51 Neither pictorial Suprematism nor 
Suprematist philosophy is iconoclastic or nihilist. Malevich's 
iconoclasm "is only brought to bear on the imago and 
leaves intact . . . the domain of the icon as 'similitude' that 
is rigorously nonimitative"; 52 "pictorial Suprematism is the 
attempt to restore iconicity in art, and the attempt in 
philosophy ... to reestablish its rights to 'being.'"' 3 Above 
all, Martineau insists on Malevich's pictorial thought as 
being a lesson in freedom, in "the liberation of liberty": 
"Anyone who today asks that thought be what it always 
was, that is, the sole instrument of liberation that exists on 
earth and above, must read Malevich as one of the great- 
est spiritual and political teachers of the century." 54 

Martineau's appraisal of Malevich, like my own and 
like that of all who have discerned ontological thought 
about the spiritual (not spiritualism!) in Malevich's work, 
countered dominant thought of the 1970s and 1980s, 
which adopted the "zero of forms" that Suprematism 
proclaimed in 1915, but only saw a "zero stage." For 
Malevich, rendering forms as zero is but a springboard for 
going beyond zero, into the regions of a liberated Nothing. 

This "beyond" is not transcendental in the traditional 
sense, but rather is immersed in the objectless world, the 
only reality. 

At this point, it is necessary to cite a long extract from a 
letter written by Malevich to Gershenzon on April 11, 
1920 — that is, precisely at the time that he began his great 
philosophical work. This letter, unpublished until 2000, 
confirms (if that were necessary) the painter's fundamental 
antimaterialism and his ambition to turn pictorial and 
philosophical Suprematism into a religion intended to 
succeed all religions — a new religion of the spirit, a 
"religion of the pure act": 

l no longer consider Suprematism like a painter or like a form that 
I took out from a dark skull. I stand before it like an outsider 
contemplating a phenomenon. For many years I was concerned 
with my movement in colors, leaving the religion of the spirit 
aside, and twenty-five years have passed, and now I have returned 
or rather I have entered into the religious World; I do not know 
why it happened so I visit churches, look at the saints and the 
entire spiritual world in action, and now I see in myself, and 
perhaps in the world as a whole, that the time is coming for a 
change of religions. I have seen that just as painting has moved 
toward its pure form of the act, so too the World of religions is 
moving toward the religion of the Pure act; all the saints and 
prophets were impelled by this very act, but were not able to real- 
ize it, blocked as they were by reason, which sees goal and 
meaning in everything, and every act of the religious World 
smashed against these two walls of the rational fence. 

Malevich's texts allow us to apprehend the significance 
of his pictorial act. When Malevich was filled with a real 
rage to write, it was because he was simultaneously 
defending his pictorial system and had the ontological 
need to formulate in words that which he was formulat- 
ing, silently, through the pictorial. Malevich's writing brings 


us into the very twists and turns of creation in which 
"painting-writing-thinking-being" are identical, if not simi- 
lar, positions. His writing is the fruit of reflection that stems 
from a work that is already done. Both defense and illus- 
tration of objectless art, it gives us the philosophical version 
of a pictorial practice. Roger de Piles said in 1699: "It is 
therefore not enough to learn the Author of a Picture, to 
know the movement of the Brush, if we do not penetrate 
into that of the Spirit." Malevich is not a professional 
philosopher-theologian. He is a painter who expressed 
discursively (using the verbal tools provided by his cultural 
environment) the philosophical necessity of pictorial art. 
What is extraordinary, what makes Malevich a unique 
figure in the universal history of the arts, is that he was not 
a painter-philosopher, but a great painter and a great 
philosopher who was able to raise in philosophical, often 
idiolectical terms, on par with the greats, the question of 
the truth of being. 

Translated from the French by Molly Stevens. 


I wish to thank John Malmstad for his 
assistance, in particular for reviewing the 
English translations of Malevich's writings 
from the original Russian 

1 . Malevich, Suprematizm: 34 risunka, in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol 1 (Moscow: Gileia, 
1995), pp. 185-207 

2. There are no pamphlets with this title, 
but all the texts in Malevich's magnum 
opus, Suprematizm Mir kak bespredmet- 
nost ill vechnyi pokoi, including the 
pamphlet Bog ne skinut: Iskusstvo, 
Tserkov, Fabnka, reflect on the "act of 
pure white. " See Kazimir Malevich; 
Sobranie sochinenii v piati tomakh, vol 3 
(Moscow; Gileia, 2000) 

Bespredmetnost (as in the title 
Suprematizm: Mir kak bespredmetnost ill 
vechnyi pokoi) is usually rendered as 
"nonobjectivity" or "nonobjectivism," 
but, for reasons that I will explain, I 
prefer "the objectless ." 

3 Malevich, Suprematizm: 34 risunka, 
p. 189. 

4 Malevich, "Suprematizm" (1919), in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol. 1, p. 151. 

5 Ibid 

6 Malevich, "K II chasti Suprematizm 
kak bespredmetnost, °°, otdyx" (1920), 
handwritten notebook, private archive, 
St. Petersburg, p. 43 

7. Anna Leporskaia, "Anfang und Ende 
der figurativen Malerei und der 
Suprematismus/The Beginning and the 
End of Figurative Painting and 
Suprematism," in Kasimir Malewitsch 
Zum 100. Geburtstag, exh cat (Cologne 
Galene Gmurzynska, 1978), p. 65. 

8. See Emmanuel Martineau, Malevitch 
et la philosophie (Lausanne: L'Age 
d'Homme, 1977) 

9. Etienne Gilson, Peinture et Realite 
(Pans: Vnn, 1972), p. 290. 

10 Ibid , p. 298. 

I I Martineau, Malevitch et la philoso- 
phie, p. 78. 

12. Alexandre Benois, "Poslednaia futur- 
isticheskaia vystavka," speech, January 9 
[211, 1916, p. 3 

13 Boris Arvatov, in Pechat i revoliutsiia, 
no 7(1922), pp 343-44 

14 Sergei Isakov, "Tserkov i khudozh- 
nik," Zhizn iskusstva, no. 14 (April 10, 
1923), p. 20. Malevich responded to 
this article in "Vanka-vstanka," Zhizn 
iskusstva, no. 21 (May 29, 1923), 

pp 15-16 

15 The most flagrant examples are Die 
gegenstandslose Welt (Munich: Albert 
Langen, 1927) and Suprematismus: Die 
gegenstandslose Welt (Cologne: DuMont 
Schauberg, 1962) While respecting the 
spirit of Malevich's thought overall, these 
German translations of his manuscripts 
give them a tone that resembles more 
German Naturphilosophie than Futurist 
exclamatory rhetoric. 

16. Malevich, letter to Mania 
Gershenzon, December 28, 1919, in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol 3, p. 375 

17. Nikolai Khardzhiev, "Vmesto 
predisloviia," in K istoni russkogo avan- 
garda (Stockholm: Gileia, 1976), p. 101. 

18. Ibid. Italics added 

19. Malevich, "Opoezna," in Kazimir 
Malevich Sobranie sochinenii v piati 
tomakh, vol 1, p 142 

20 Ibid, pp 142-43 

21. See Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: 
Heidegger and the Question (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1989), 
pp. 83-98. 

22. Malevich, Bog ne skinut, p. 238. 

23 Malevich, Suprematizm: Mir kak 
bespredmetnost ili vechnyi pokoi, 
pp. 219-20. On excitement as primum 
movens and on Mikhail Gershenzon's 
influence with regard to the question 
of "perfections," see my foreword and 
preface, "Une esthetique de I'abime," 
in Malevich, fcms / De Cezanne au 
Suprematisme (Lausanne: L'Age 
d'Homme, 1974, 1993), p. 7; translated 
into English as "An Approach to the 
Writings of Malevich," Soviet Union/ 
Union Sovietique 5. no 2 (1978), 
pp. 225-40 


24 Cited by Evgenn Kovtun as an 
epigraph to his article "'Les mots en 
hberte' de Marmetti et la transmenlalite' 
(zaum) des futuristes russes," in 
Presence de Marmetti (Lausanne: L'Age 
d'Homme, 1982), p. 234. 

25. Malevich defended Marmetti against 
Russian critics in the 1910s and revolu- 
tionary 1920s See Jean-Claude Marcade, 
"Marmetti et Maievitch," in Presence de 
Marmetti. pp. 256-57. 

26. The principle writings of Marmetti 
and of the Italian Futurists were 
published in Russian mainly in 1913-14. 
See Cesare G De Michelis, // futurismo 
italiano in Russia, 1909- 1929 (Ban: De 
Donate 1973), p. 269 

27 See Dora Vallier, "Maievitch et le 
modele Imguistique," Critique, March 
1975, pp 284-96, and Rainer Crone, 
"Zum Suprematismus Kazimir Malevich, 
Velimir Chlebnikov und Nikolai 
Lobacevskij, " Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, 
vol 40(1978), pp 129-62, "A Propos 
de la signification de la 
Gegenstandslosigkeit chez Maievitch et 
son rapport a la theone poetique de 
Khlebnikov," in Maievitch: Cahier I 
(Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme, 1983), 

pp. 45-75, and Kazimir Malevich: The 
Climax of Disclosure (Munich Prestel, 
1991), pp 89ff 

28 This last phrase is from Marmetti's 
manifesto "La Splendeur geometrique et 
mecanique et la sensibilite numenque" 
(1914), in Giovanni Lista, Futunsme. 
Manifestes. Documents Proclamations 
(Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme, 1973), 

pp 147-52 

29 On the subject of the similarities 
and differences between Marmetti and 
Malevich, see my "Marmetti et 
Maievitch," pp. 250-65. 

30. See my "Une esthetique de 
I'abime'VAn Approach to the Writings 
of Malevich " 

3 1 Malevich, letter to Alexandre Benois, 
May 1916, in Kazimir Malevich v 
russkom muzee (St Petersburg Palace 
Editions, 2000), p 393 

32 See my "Une esthetique de I'abime," 
pp 22-23, "An Approach to the 
Writings of Malevich," pp 236-37 

33 The correspondence between 
Malevich and Gershenzon from 1918 to 
1924 is found in Kazimir Malevich: 
Sobranie sochinenii v piati tomakh, 
vol. 3, pp 327-53 

34 Martineau, Maievitch et la philoso- 
phie, p 102. 

35. Malevich, "Suprematizm" (1922), 
quoted in Jean-Claude Marcade, 
Maievitch (Pans Casterman, 1990), 
p 161 

36 Jin Padrta. "Le monde en tant que 
sans-objet ou le repos eternel Essai sur la 
precarite d'un projet humaniste," in 
Maievitch: Cahier I, pp. 176-77. 

37. Die gegenstandslose Welt and 
Suprematismus: Die gegenstandslose 
Welt (see n 15) remained the only trans- 
lations of Malevich's writings until 1968, 
when the first English translation 
appeared (Malevich, fssays on Art, vol 1 
(Copenhagen: Borgen, 1968]) 

38 Malevich, "Suprematizm" (1919), 
p. 150. 

39. See Malevich, "O subektivnom i o 
obektivnom v iskusstve i voobshche," in 
Malevich, Zhivopis. Teoriia (Moscow: 
Iskusstvo, 1993), pp. 237-50. 

40 Malevich, Bog ne skinut, p. 241. 

41 Malevich, Suprematizm: Mir kak 
bespredmetnost Hi vechnyi pokoi, p. 84. 
"Suprematicheskoe zerkalo" is the title 
of a 1923 manifesto by Malevich, in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol. 1, p. 273 

42. Eleven articles from Anarkhiia, edited 
by Andrei D. Sarabianov, appear in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol 3, pp. 75-125. 

43 Among the most important of these 
are 1/45: Vvedenie v teoriiu pribav- 
ochnogo elementa v zhivopisi, ed. 
Stephan Von Wiese (Mayence: Florian 
Kupferberg, 1980): A Targynelkuli vilag 
(in Hungarian), trans. Eva Forgacs 
(Budapest: Corvma Kiado. 1986), and 
texts from the Malevich Archive, Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam, in Malevich, 
Zhivopis Teoriia, pp. 237-380, and in 
Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii v 
piati tomakh, vol 3 

44. Among the most important are in 
German, Die gegenstandslose Welt and 
Suprematismus: Die gegenstandslose 
Welt (see n 15); in English, the four 
volumes of Essays on Art, ed Troels 
Andersen (Copenhagen: Borgen, 1968- 
78); and in French, the four volumes of 
foils, ed. Jean-Claude Marcade 
(Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme. 1974-94), 
and Maievitch ferns, ed. Andrei Nakov 
(Paris: Le Champ Libre, 1975) 

45. Martineau's Maievitch et la philoso- 
phie is complemented by his highly 
thoughtful articles that delve into vari- 
ous aspects of Suprematist philosophy: 
"Une philosophie des 'Suprema,'" in 
Suprematisme, exh. cat. (Paris: Galerie 
Jean Chauvelin, 1977), in French and 
English, "Preface" to the French trans- 
lations of Bog ne skinut and 
"Vanka-vstanka," in Malevich, forts II: 
Le miroir suprematiste (Lausanne: L'Age 
d'Homme, 1977, 1993); and "Maievitch 
et I'enigme cubiste.' 36 propositions en 
marge Des nouveaux systemes en art," 
in Maievitch. Actes du Colloque interna- 
tional tenu au Centre Georges 
Pompidou (Lausanne L'Age d'Homme, 
1979), pp. 59-77 

46. Martineau, Maievitch et la philoso- 
phie, p. 121. 

47 Martineau, "Preface," p .27 

48. Malevich, "Suprematicheskoe 
zerkalo," p. 273. 

49. Martineau, "Une philosophie des 
'Suprema,'" p 130 

50. Martineau, "Preface," p. 27. 
51 Ibid, p 26 

52. Ibid., p 33. 

53. Martineau, "Maievitch et I'enigme 
'cubiste,'" p 63 

54. Martineau, Maievitch et la philoso- 
phie, p 224 

55 See Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie 
sochinenii v piati tomakh, vol 3, p. 341 


Slate Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 





Malevich first mentioned the idea of a new journal in May 1915, 
long before he had invented the term "Suprematism"; at this 
time, the title of the journal was to be Nul [Zero]. This first men- 
tion coincided chronologically with Malevich's initial quest to 
develop a new theory of nonobjective art that would "go beyond 
zero." 1 "That which was done unconsciously is now bearing extra- 
ordinary fruit," Malevich wrote to Mikhail Matiushin on May 27, 
1915, referring back to his notorious drawing for the curtain of 
the opera Pobeda nad solntsem {Victory over the Sun, 1913), ret- 
rospectively rationalizing it as a prototype of Suprematism, an 
anticipation of his Black Square (1915). 2 Malevich carefully con- 
cealed his new ideas from his rivals, especially Ivan Puni (Jean 
Pougny), but he shared them with old friends who had been tried 
and tested in collaboration: Aleksei Kruchenykh spent the summer 
of 1915 working in a room he rented from Malevich at his dacha 
in Kuntsevo, and both were occasionally visited there by Ivan 
Kliun. On May 29, Malevich shared with Matiushin his idea for a 
new journal and asked for his support in reuniting the old Futurist 
"trio" of Malevich, Matiushin, and Kruchenykh: 


PETROGRAD, 1915-16 
State Russian Museum, St- Petersburg 

We are planning to put out a journal and have begun to discuss 
the how and what of it. Since in it we intend to reduce everything 
to zero, we have decided to call it Nul. Afterward we ourselves 
will go beyond zero. It would be good if you could also offer 
some useful advice. We're pooling our resources to publish it, i.e., 
ten rubles apiece, and at first it will be two printer's sheets — not 
much, but good. It would also be good if you could come here — 
there's a room for you and it's quiet. ... Then things would get 
going even better. 1 

This idea of "going beyond zero" was partially 
reflected in Malevich, Khun, and Kruchenykh's collection 
of essays Tainye poroki akademikov (Secret Vices of the 
Academicians), which came out that summer in Moscow. 
(To symbolize their orientation toward the future, the 
authors decided to date the work 1 91 6 on the cover.) By 
early fall, Malevich had come up with the final name of 
the new movement, inventing the term "Suprematism," 
which in his interpretation symbolized the "supremacy" of 
the new philosophy of nonobjective art: "Suprematism is 

the most appropriate name, for it signifies supremacy," he 
wrote to Matiushin. 4 Thus was determined the name of 
the new group and, with it, that of the journal they were 
planning, Supremus. (It is interesting to note that Malevich 
emphasized the Latin etymology of this word: in his 
manuscripts, it rarely occurs in Cyrillic, but for the most 
part is written in Latin letters.) 

Suprematism was introduced to the public in December 
1915, at Posledniaia futuristicheskaia vystavka kartin, 
"0. 10" (nul-desat) (The Last Futurist Exhibition of 
Paintings, "0. 10" [Zero-Ten]) in Petrograd. The internal 
leadership struggle that accompanied the exhibition was 
not a simple one, and relationships among the members, 
complicated by personal ambitions, were evidently 
strained. In letters to Kruchenykh, Olga Rozanova 
conveyed the tense atmosphere in which this exhibition 
was prepared: 

The most disagreeable thing about this entire exhibition and the 
artists is that everything is done underhandedly, and if before 
everyone only worried about themselves, now everyone is mostly 
concerned with doing whatever possible to hurt someone else. 
Thus Puni, who promised to order frames for me, purposely 
didn't do it so that my pictures would look ragged. They 
butchered the catalogue and did so many other petty things that 
even Malevich was forced to admit that it's disgusting. ... 
Malevich is something of their lackey, and the stability of the 
organization depends on how long he remains satisfied with his 
"position." 5 

The conflict began even before the exhibition opened, 
when the other participants, led by the organizers of the 
show, Puni and Ksenia Boguslavskaia, flatly refused to 
use the term "Suprematism" in the catalogue. Malevich 
made a clever tactical move by preparing a brochure, 


Of kubizma k suprematizmu. Novyi zhivopisnyi realizm 
(From Cubism to Suprematism: The New Painterly 
Realism), printed by Matiushin for the opening as a coun- 
terpart to the catalogue, which had been "censored" by 
Puni. It was the first printed publication — in the form of a 
manifesto — to declare the new movement. "It has 
become crucial at any price to issue this little brochure 
about my work and christen it and thereby announce in 
advance my copyright," Malevich wrote to Matiushin. 6 
The following September, the Suprematists' journal 
was announced in the press, and at that time the list of 
participants was the same as that of the 0. 10 exhibition 
Apollon (nos. 9-10) ran an advertisement declaring the 
launch of "the monthly journal Supremus, which will 
come out in Moscow in December or January and will be 
devoted to painting, decorative art, music, and literature. 
Principal organizers and contributors include Malevich, 
Rozanova, Puni, [Aleksandra] Exter, Kliun, [Mikhail] 
Menkov. " Malevich wrote about the journal in more detail 
in a letter to Matiushin dated October 27, 1916: "I've 
already arranged everything. Materials are being collected, 
we're all set with the typography. Send articles on new 
directions. The first issue is on Cubism, I'll go on from 
there. I won't appear until issue three." 7 However, in 
Malevich's handwritten draft of an advertisement for the 
journal, which states that the second issue would appear 
in January 1917, Malevich himself is listed among the 

Contributors to Supremus will be those who have turned aside 
the rays of yesterday's sun from their faces. Kazimir Malevich, 
Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga Rozanova, Ivan Kliun, Liubov Popova, 
Mikhail Menkov, Ivan Puni, Ksenia Boguslavskaia, Aleksei 

Kruchenykh, ... [Vera) Pestel, ... Yurkevich, Nikolai Roslavets, 
Mikhail Matiushin, Natalia Davydova. 

Owing to limited quantities of the issue, subscriptions are 
being accepted for Supremus no. 2. It will appear on January 1. 

There is a note in the margin, "write Roslavets and ask 
which of several editions of his music should be put in the 
chronicle," and after a row of dots: "No. 2 will include K. 
Malevich's articles 'A Response to the Old Day' and 'The 
Fool's Cap of Philistine Logic.'" 8 Malevich's inclusion of 
Puni and Boguslavskaia in this list was motivated by purely 
practical considerations related to the financing of the 
journal, and when Puni's pretensions toward a leading role 
(which had only grown since 0. 10) led to an unavoidable 
break with Malevich, publication of the journal was 
delayed due to a lack of sponsorship. 

Conditions within the Russian art world of 1915-16 
were conducive to a summing up of the avant-garde's 
brief past and a consequent struggle to establish a new 
leadership. In late 1914, the most significant early avant- 
garde group in Petrograd, Union of Youth, had ceased to 
exist, and it had soon become clear — after Mikhail 



Larionov and Natalia Goncharova, the leading figures of 
the Moscow art world, left Russia — that a certain period in 
the history of the Russian avant-garde was over. These 
events charged politics within the avant-garde and 
provoked an atmosphere in which closure occurred simul- 
taneously with the development of new aesthetic theories. 
Two dominant schools emerged, organized around the two 
opposing poles of nonobjective art, Malevich and Vladimir 
Tatlin. Each school hoped to monopolize the avant-garde 
movement. For Malevich, then, the struggle for preemi- 
nence was being waged not only within his own group, 
but outside it as well. By 1916, the nucleus of his competi- 
tor Tatlin's group had taken definite shape and his own 
group appeared vulnerable: few of the members were well 
known, his own activity significantly outweighed the contri- 
bution of the other participants, and, moreover, the 
ambivalence of some members, who tended toward a 
more independent artistic position, was alarming. In 1916, 
Rozanova wrote to Kruchenykh: 

I recently got a verbose letter from Kliunkov [Kliun]. Flattering 
and alarming. They are afraid that the group of [Lev] Bruni, 
Tatlin, and others will be significantly larger and have more 
success with the public than the Suprematists. He's appealing to 
me. He says that the Suprematists should work closely and 
harmoniously and so on, calls me a "rare" artist, etc. 9 

The social and political situation in the spring of 1917, 
when the first issue of Supremus was being put together 
after the initial delay, could not but affect Malevich's ideo- 
logical strategy and the program of his journal. The events 
of the First Russian Revolution in February 1917, followed 
by the October Revolution later that year, had a complex 
and paradoxical impact on the social, philosophical, and 
aesthetic ideas of the avant-garde, and this was reflected 

in Supremus. Power in the new institutionalized art world 
became a central issue: 

Mass meetings have been organized in the artistic everyday of 
free Russia. The leaders of the meeting are the same anointed 
autocrats of the Academies. It was not a pretty sight: these 
ungrateful [artists] who have fed themselves on crumbs from 
their beloved monarch, painted millions of portraits of him, 
raised monuments to the hangmen, now crowing over the corpse 
of the lord, singing out their baseness. 

Yesterday they tossed out rebellious young new truths, today 
they bow down to freedom and wear red ribbons in their button- 
holes. Interesting as well was the liberated "youth" that elected 
the "wretched" chairmen. The Suprematists were watching and 
marveling at the suppleness of the reincarnation. 10 

Under these circumstances, Malevich was the first to 
realize that the publication of an art journal, strictly 
controlled by one group, was not only an ideological but a 
strategic necessity. He conceived his journal as an attempt 
to create a social context for his art, to establish a basis for 
the new movement — in fact, as he wrote, "to form [his] 
own environment." 11 According to Malevich's vision, 
Supremus, apart from being a vehicle for his own artistic 
ambitions and assuring his leading role in the art world, 
was to become an original forum for experiment and 
discussion, something between a virtual laboratory and a 
fortress (he referred to his journal as a laboratory-house 
[dom-laboratoria]) for the new philosophy and theory of 
nonobjective art. The innovative form and artistic ideology 
of this journal (which Rozanova, in a letter to Matiushin, 
called "strictly partisan") 12 — its proclamation of 
Suprematism "in everything," its orientation toward the 
group, and its emphasis in numerous articles on the priority 
of "collective work" over individual art — served to enforce 


Suprematist doctrine. On the draft of a title page for the 
journal, Malevich could not resist the temptation of adding 
in pencil: "A cockerel that will be heard far and wide." 13 
The metamorphosis in the title of Malevich's journal 
from Nul to Supremus is symbolic. While both titles 
convey the anarchic idea of creating the world out of 
"nothing" and the equation of "nothing" with "every- 
thing," the shift in emphasis from the extreme nihilism 
of "zero" to the Utopian supreme domination ("Suprem- 
atism" meant "supremacy" to Malevich) marked a new 
stage in the evolution of the avant-garde. The anarchic 
antiutopia of alogism yielded to a quest for an objective 
universal law (Matiushin incisively noted "academic allu- 
sions" in the term "Suprematism" 14 ), the assertion of the 
universal, and, consequently, an inescapably Utopian 
concept of art. Strategy changed as well: 

But who of us will remain to take down our youthfulness from the 
attic and show it to our young offspring? Who will pass on the 
new book of new laws from our tablets? You see, we do not yet 
have a book. But it is necessary, indispensable. The book is a little 
history of our art ... the sum of our days, the key locking our 
thoughts within us.' 

This histoncism and the attempt to register the genealogy 
of Suprematism seems very far from the earlier futuristic 
maximalism of Malevich and his comrades-in-arms, but it 
is indeed the main leitmotif of the journal, in many 
respects inspired by the desire to reflect or re-create the 
extratextual context of the movement. To some degree, 
Supremus itself has become a fragment of the historical 
and artistic context, without which the "aesthetic object" 
of the cultural legacy can no longer exist, according to 
Bakhtinian theory: "The work [of art] also includes its 



necessary extratextual context. The work, as it were, is 
enveloped in the music of the intonational-evaluative 
context in which it is understood and evaluated." 16 

By the middle of 1917, Puni, Boguslavskaia, Popova, 
and Exter were no longer members of the Suprematist 
group, and Malevich, Rozanova, Udaltsova, Roslavets, 
Kliun, Yurkevich, and Kruchenykh, among others, were 
announced as the principal contributors to the journal. 
The original structure of the journal had also changed: 
First of all, Malevich had asserted himself as editor in 
chief. Radically changing his position of not appearing 
until the third issue, he wrote several articles for the first 
issue: "Kubizm" ("Cubism"), "Futurizm" ("Futurism"), 
"Arkhitektura kak poshchechina zhelezo-betonu" 
("Architecture as a Slap in the Face to Ferroconcrete"), 
and "Teatr" ("Theater"), which together were to make up 
the ideological core of the publication and defined the 
"strictly partisan" character noted by Rozanova. Although 
Cubism remained a theme throughout, the accent had 
shifted to the formation of a universal theory of nonobjec- 
tivity in painting, literature, music, architecture, sculpture, 
and theater, and in no small measure to its philosophical 
rather than practical basis. The provocative nature of a 
remark by one of the Supremus contributors (Yurkevich) 
was indisputably confirmed by the contents of the journal: 
"Suprematism is to all previously existing painting as 
philosophy is to journalism."' 7 

The journal's program and contents were well defined 
by 1917. Rozanova described Supremus in a letter to 
Matiushin written that May: "A periodical. Strictly 
partisan in nature. Its program: Suprematism (in painting, 
sculpture, architecture, music, the new theater, and so 
on). Articles, a chronicle, letters, aphorisms, poetry. 

reproductions of Suprematist pictures, and applied art," 
and articles of both a popular scholarly and a nonfictional 
nature. 18 In a letter to Andrei Shemshurin at the end of 
May, Rozanova wrote that the journal was in the process 
of being published and that the first issue had already 
been composed. 19 On June 18, she wrote to Matiushin 
that "it has already been delivered to the printer." 20 

The first issue of the journal never did appear, in spite 
of the fact that all materials (not only for the first, but 
partly even for the second issue) were in effect ready by 
June 1917. In July, Rozanova wrote to Shemshurin: "These 
past few days there has been some fuss in connection 
with the publication of the journal, which is still being 
printed." 21 By the end of the fall, serious differences 
among the Suprematists had begun to emerge, judging by 
a note in Udaltsova's diary of November 22: 

They [a few members of the group] broke with Suprematism in 
an outrageous manner. Malevich suddenly went crazy, and we 
quarreled; if the journal comes out and we get back what we put 
into it, fine, but if the money is gone, horrible. . . . There was 
such faith in the journal; it has bogged down, but I still think it 
will appear." 

On March 20, 1918, Udaltsova made the final entry in 
her diary concerning the unpublished journal: "How 
terribly disappointing that our journal has not come 
out." 23 It is possible that after the journal was not 
published the printer returned the manuscripts to 
Rozanova (given her position as editorial secretary), and 
that, after Rozanova's premature death in November 
1918, some of these went to Kruchenykh and from 
there to Nikolai Khardzhiev. These materials are now in 
his archive at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 
Judging by the editorial notes preserved in the 


Khardzhiev archive, the first issue of the journal was to be 
divided into four main sections: Painting (Cubism), 
Literature, Music, and Theater. Critical reviews, art news, 
and correspondence were placed at the end of the issue. 
Malevich's manuscript "Privetstvie suprematistam" 
("Greeting to the Suprematists," the final copy of which is 
in Rozanova's hand on lined paper) is marked "Moscow, 
May 1, 1917" and labeled in red pencil "No. 1," which 
clearly indicates that this manifesto was to open the 
issue. 24 Next (labeled "No. 2") was to have been the 
general theoretical article "0 bespredmetnom iskusstve" 
("On Nonobjective Art") by the composer Roslavets, 25 
which sets forth the basic philosophical sources of the 
new current, including Suprematism. Unfortunately, the 
fair copy of Malevich's text "Cubism" is missing from the 
archive (there is a draft, 26 however, and a text titled "Usta 
zemli i khudozhnik" ["The Mouth of the Earth and the 
Artist"], 27 which appears to be a preliminary version of 
"Cubism"); we can only assume that it was intended for 
the first section. The archive contains other manuscripts in 
draft form that I have determined to belong to this first 
issue of the journal on the basis of fragmentary informa- 
tion gleaned from correspondence among the contrib- 
utors. This is the case with "Kubizm, futunzm, suprema- 
tizm" ("Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism") by Rozanova 28 
and "0 starom i novom v muzyke" ("On the Old and the 
New in Music") by Matiushin; 29 both essays are absent 
from the Khardzhiev archive, but the authorized typewrit- 
ten originals are in other collections in Moscow. Malevich's 
programmatic article "Architecture as a Slap in the Face to 
Ferroconcrete" 30 is labeled "No. 5," and his article 
"Futurism" 3 ' is marked "No. 7." Between these may have 
been Kliun's "Nonobjective Art," 32 which on the whole 

reflects Malevich's thoughts on the subject. An untitled 
article by Udaltsova ("No. 8"), which was "to be contin- 
ued in later issues of Supremus," 33 addresses the same 
issues. The first section of the journal was to be concluded 
by Yurkevich's brief and rather superficial untitled essay on 
the distinction between Suprematism and all preceding 
art styles. 

The literary section was to begin with Kruchenykh's 
"Deklaratsna slova kak takovogo" ("The Declaration of the 
Word as Such," "No. 10"), originally published in 1913 and 
reworked in 1917 especially for Supremus™ From 
Rozanova's correspondence, we know that the remaining 
texts in this section were to have been Kruchenykh's play 
Gly-Gly (in which the protagonists are Velimir Khlebnikov, 
Vladimir Mayakovsky, Malevich, Matiushin, and Rozanova) 
and the zaum poetry collections Balos, by Kruchenykh and 
Rozanova, and Golubye iaitsa (Blue Eggs), by Kruchenykh. 35 
Matiushin's article "On the Old and the New in Music" was 
to be included in the music section, presumably with other 
texts. Finally, in the last part of the issue would have been 
Malevich's essay "Theater," followed by a chronicle written 
in Malevich's hand, titled "Shto proiskhodelo v fevrale 
1917 goda i v marte" ("What Happened in February and 
March 1917"), reviews, and letters by Udaltsova to 
Malevich ("No. 19") and to Rozanova ("No. 20") and her 
notes entitled "Thoughts on Art" ("No. 21"). 36 

In the text that was to open the journal, "Greeting to 
the Suprematists," Malevich wrote: 

Many years now have become decades, but we have as before 
remained true to our spirit 

Burning in ever new materials we have acquired, we will move 
tirelessly — or like ovens, we resmelt new conclusions and form 


DECEMBER 6-19, 1917 
Courtesy Institute of Modern Russian Culture, Los Angeles 

I am delighted with our meeting on the pages of the 
laboratory-house Supremus. 

More than once have we met at the stations along our common 
road. Where we met, the bonfires burned, raising the flame of the 

Jack of Diamonds, Donkey's Tail, Target, Union of Youth, 
Tramway V, 0.10, The Store. 

These are the sites of our burned-out bonfires, our days, 
already past. 

The aspiration to make Supremus an extraindividual 
"laboratory-house" manifested itself not only at the level 
of content (each article touches, in one way or another, 
on the problematic relationship of the individual to the 
school and urges artists to overcome individuality in 
"collective creation"), but also in the very unusual unity of 
such different artistic voices (Rozanova, Matiushin, 
Udaltsova, Roslavets) orchestrated by Malevich. Initially, it 
seems, the issue was to have begun with a brief joint 
declaration by the Suprematists, "Our Consciousness . . . ," 37 
signed by the members of the group: "K. Malevich, 
N. Udaltsova, M. Menkov, L. Popova [crossed out in pencil, 
probably by Malevich], N. Davydova, I. Kliun, Yurkevich, 
N. Roslavets, M. Matiushin, Pestel, Exter [crossed out in 
pencil, also probably by Malevich]." (The original, in 
Malevich's hand, is in the Khardzhiev archive.) The declara- 
tion was to set forth the goal of the journal and its 
ideological position, establishing Suprematism as a new 
"basis for creativity," a universal synthetic style encom- 
passing all spheres of artistic activity: "In our journal 
Supremus, we have set out to provide the contours of the 
idea of Suprematism, which bears within it a new idea of 
the artistic, musical, and poetic perception of nature and 
our life." 


The rhetoric of this text is full of allusions to early 
Cubo-Futunst manifestos, and is rooted in the myth of the 
new art as the only means of breaking out of "the ring of 
yesterday into the new day." In Malevich's "genealogy" of 
Suprematism, it is Cubism that plays the most important 
conceptual role, a "victory over the principles of the Old 
Rationality of centuries of culture," "supported on 
muscles of meat," a revolutionary source that has led to 
the triumph of "creation" — or the creative will — over 
"varnished art." While a strong sense of national identity 
did not prevent the Suprematists from recognizing them- 
selves as part of the international European avant-garde, 
Cubism was to be present in Supremus only as a general 
concept (no names, even those of Georges Braque and 
Picasso, are mentioned in any of the articles) reinvented by 
Suprematists as the origin of the avant-garde tradition — a 
tradition that was nonetheless revolutionary. This was a 
new methodological approach, based on historical self- 
reflection by the avant-garde. Supremus was the first 
attempt to establish the Russian avant-garde movement as 
an artistic entity within its own historical development, as 
a dynamically evolving, self-regenerating tradition. 
(Malevich wrote in "Futurism" that "the new value of 
Futurism — speed — must not be finalized" and named the 
principal shortcoming of the Futurists to be their "acad- 
emism," the fact that they "stopped and tried to use old 
means of expression to convey the new.") 

In Malevich's almost postmodern sensibility, he 
projected the Suprematist perception onto Cubism, much 
as in the 1920s he would deconstruct and reinvent 
Impressionism (or rather the concept or formula of 
Impressionism, which had little in common with the actual 
movement of the latter half of the nineteenth century). 

Cubism as an aesthetic phenomenon and the practice of it 
(already explored by Russian artists in the years leading up 
to 1915) were of no interest to the Suprematists. Cubism 
was to appear in Supremus exclusively on the level of an 
idea, a form Malevich wrote in "Futurism": 

Cubism and Futurism are the revolutionary banners of art. They 
are of value to museums, like the relics of the Social Revolution. 
Relics to which monuments should be erected in public squares. I 
propose creating in squares monuments to Cubism and Futurism 
as the weapons that defeated the old art of repetition and 
brought us to spontaneous creation 

Malevich praised the destruction of things in Cubism, 
which he believed had completely changed the reference 
points of art, singling out and leading to the dominance 
of painterly language "as such" and the study of the 
formal qualities of painting. "Considering Cubism the bril- 
liant solution to our problems, being liberated from 
objectness, we emerge into space, color, and time. It is 
with these three worlds that we will explore our new tasks 
in following issues of Supremus," he wrote in "The Mouth 
of the Earth and the Artist." According to Malevich, the 
Suprematists took the next step in this direction by 
abstracting the primary elements of painterly structure, 
particularly color and form: "Through Cubism and 
Futurism, the artist burst with a convulsive movement into 
the freedom of pure creativity, into the study of pure 
painting — color. Painting is only color and form." He 
continues: "Cubism is the time of art when consciousness 
came closest to color." While color was not really a major 
issue in Cubism, it became the fundamental principle of 
painting for the Suprematists. In Rozanova's "Cubism, 
Futurism, Suprematism" and Malevich's articles for 
Supremus, a new concept was introduced: color-painting 


(tsvetopis). 38 Malevich wrote in "Greeting to the 

Having been transfigured in the rapids of the changing, running 
rings of the horizon, we have leapt beyond the boundaries of the 
zero of repetitions and have come face to face with color. Color 
and color alone touches our creative nucleus. It turns it, and the 
centrifugal force creates new strata of color masses, naked 
nonobjective peaks of facets joined together. 

This exclusive concentration on the formal categories 
of painting allowed the artist to exceed its limitations. 
Already in 1915, Rozanova had professed that "objectness 
and nonobjectness (in painting) are not two different 
tendencies within a single art, but two different arts — 
I even think it sensible to substitute projections on a 
screen for paint in nonobject art." 39 Contained within the 
very notion of nonobjective art was the possibility of going 
beyond the bounds of easel painting. As Yurkevich wrote 
in his untitled manuscript for Supremus, "Perhaps the 
New Painting is not at all for easel pictures or for exhibi- 
tions. The old methods of reproducing and of viewing art 
are probably not suitable now. New wine demands new 
wineskins. This is the next urgent question." 

The extant articles written for Supremus unquestion- 
ably indicate that Malevich originally considered his style 
as synthetic and universal and not bound by the borders 
of one or another genre or form of art. Moreover, he 
promoted his nonobjectivity theory as a theory of 
unbound "creativity" (as opposed to the "narrow" notion 
of "art") capable of penetrating beyond the boundaries of 
artistic activity to encompass the most diverse spheres of 
human life. 

Under the direct influence of Malevich, Kruchenykh 
during this period became interested in the notion of 

soundless poetry, intended not for reading and declama- 
tion but for purely visual perception. In the revised 
"Declaration of the Word as Such," Kruchenykh theorized 
on the mutually complementary (but not interchangeable) 
nature of abstract visual and auditory elements in the 
process of intuitive cognition: "sound in music, color in 
painting, and the letter in poetry (thought = insight + 
sound + outline + color)." This new epistemology of the 
nonobjective, which Kruchenykh only touched upon, is 
another core theme in the Supremus texts, especially 
those by Malevich and Roslavets. 

In his intense and interesting article "On Nonobjective 
Art," Roslavets discussed the basis of the philosophy of 
nonobjective creation, in which he perceived a return from 
the individualistic philosophy of the particular to Platonic 
ideas of universal that exist independently of things. 

Within a particular interpretation, the notion of the "nonobjec- 
tive" can be reduced to a simple rejection of the dependency of 
the artist on the necessity to represent the object and on subordi- 
nation to canons that require the artist to copy "nature," to 
render as accurate as possible a reproduction of visible nature 
and surrounding objects. If, however, in the interpretation of our 
term one goes back to a universal, the artist's striving toward 
"nonobjectiveness" in art can be raised to a profound basic prin- 
ciple of creativity. 

Following Schopenhauer's conception, Roslavets singled 
out the notions of "will" and "intellect": 

The power of the thing, of the object, is the power of the form, 
the idea; consequently, it is a state of the intellect enslaved by 
the will, and, as Schopenhauer correctly observes, only the intel- 
lect liberated from the will, the pure intellect, is capable of rising 
to the heights of the intuitive insight upon which creative genius 
exclusively depends. Our will is a symbol of the connection 


between our spirit (pure intellect) and matter, the earth, our 
personal subjective interests. The will is therefore opposed to all 
activity of the intellect directed toward anything but its goals ... 
the purely practical ... relationship [to things and phenomena]. 

Only the artist, through contemplation and intuition, is capa- 
ble of liberating himself from the will that binds all human acts 
and understanding the essence of pure creative will in its objec- 
tive (ideas). The liberated artist replaces the "common sense" of 
naturalistic dogmatism with faith in the inexhaustible wealth of 
primary forms — ideas (in the Platonic sense) that are concealed in 
his soul, from which he draws upon at moments of creative inspi- 
ration to be intuitively embodied in his art. Intuition he 
understands to be the highest stage of cognition, when rational- 
ity must yield to "faith." 

Roslavets perceived the origin of the principle of nonob- 
jectiveness in art to lie in the rejection of positivist 
rationalism, of a utilitarian attitude toward art: "The 
contemporary artist has now matured to a consciousness 
of the necessity to separate completely the will from the 
intellect in the creative process." 

In "The Mouth of the Earth and the Artist," Malevich 
discussed Suprematism as a new philosophy, whose goal 
was not to establish a new aesthetics or criterion of 
beauty (which Malevich, in his Suprematism, rejects), but 
to liberate consciousness: "The threads of the mind, the 
word and the sound, have stuck onto things, forming a 
whole spider's web in which consciousness has become 
entangled." Following Plato's dialectic, he described in his 
essay two opposing methodological principles. The 
essence of the first, which he considered a dead end, was 
to proceed downward from the most universal notions to 
the particular in an attempt "to find out the secret" 
through an object or thing contained within the bound- 
aries of the material, "created" world: "through spirit, 

they have tried to penetrate into the little cracks in the 
orifices of things . . . through the word they nave searched 
for themselves and for the mystery ... through color they 
have wanted to know the essence and the synthesis and 
the soul of things." The other path was toward synthesis, 
proceeding upward on the steps of generalized notions 
from the particular to the universal: 

But those who have gone back out of things, out of the center of 
the earth, out of the marrow of its creative exertions — they have 
striven toward space. Those who have cracked the shell of the 
egg of creation of nature and emerged from it with no thought 
to the pieces of its scattered armor. Those who have come out of 
the color of things to color. Let us proceed out of the labyrinth of 
the earth into boundless space with numbers and color and let us 
husk the grain of consciousness. 

The notion of intuition and inspiration in the metapo- 
etics of Supremus can, I think, be interpreted as a principle 
synonymous with creation. Like Roslavets, Malevich gave 
priority to creative intuition over rational consciousness 
and what Matiushin called the "temptation of the 
personal." In "On the New and the Old in Music," 
Matiushin described this individualism as creeping "every- 
where like mold," and continued, "our new body must be 
a powerful springboard at the moment of brilliant flight, 
not a heavy clay of all sorts of lascivious slush." Malevich, 
Matiushin, and Roslavets all used the same metaphor of 
earth to refer to the world of the purely material, the 
world revolving around all that is human, too human; only 
the absolute creative will is capable of bursting beyond 
the bounds of this world and approaching a knowledge of 
being. As Malevich wrote in "Cubism": "A great and 
mighty creative power has been shackled by the power of 


In this overcoming of human dimensions, in the rejec- 
tion of the European concept of the "humanist" world 
that dates to the Renaissance, a world in which everything 
"human" is the center of the universe, Suprematism's 
poetics of dehumanization in some respects resembles the 
notion set forth by Heidegger in "Letter on Humanism." 
In the ontology of Suprematism, it is knowledge of the 
phenomenal world, the perception of being rather than of 
humanity, that is the task of art, and art is equated with 
philosophy in its aspiration to define the "creative will." 

Throughout the Supremus articles, the idea of the 
"creative will" is contrasted with that of "art," which is 
repeatedly regarded as synonymous with "craft" or 
polished professional "mastery," implying a utilitarian 
nature. In "Futurism," Malevich wrote: 

The unions and guilds of painters that have arisen in connection 
with the great Russian Revolution eloquently express artisan prin- 
ciples. This is the road of classifying people according to their 
guild. But there is something in art that is not amenable to any 
classification or guild. This something is present in the first steps 
of an idea, in the first discovered forms, and it ends where the 
recycling [of an idea or form] starts; [it] ceases its work and 
becomes a utilitarian product ... producing things for the use of 
the majority. 

Creativity is regarded as a gift, whereas art is a trained 
ability, a skill. Suprematism is a revolution, a revolt against 
the "artisan guilds." Malevich contrasted his concept of 
creativity to the notion of "art as a means": "aesthetic, 
utilitarian, ideological (political, propagandistic) functions 
transform art into a means. Only nonobjective art, owing 
to its abstraction from the hurly-burly of the personal, 
family, and governmental life of protocols, is capable of 
rejecting these functions." 40 Analysis of these two 

concepts — creativity and art — is complicated by the fact 
that the definitions provided are very vague and often 
contradictory, but in all interpretations art is always 
secondary to creativity; creativity can embrace art, but not 
vice versa. "Refined culture has burned up the reasoning 
faculty] of art. . . . Socialism has illuminated to the world 
its freedom, and Art has fallen before the face of 
Creativity." 41 

Kliun began his essay "Nonobjective Art" with a 
general definition of art and a reference to "the confusion 
of two notions of art . . . representational art and the art 
of abstract form." He divided the entire history of art into 
two stages, with the first, the period of representational 
art, extending from "the first awakening of artistic 
consciousness in the savage up to and including" Cubism 
and Futurism. In the second, most recent phase, he wrote, 
"art has ceased to be a means and has become an end in 
itself." The "elements of reason, sense, feeling," he 
continued, "should not have any place in art; art has its 
own reason and sense." 

This rejection of "reason" (or the "old reason") in 
favor of the creative principle is present also in Malevich's 
and Kruchenykh's rhetoric: "Thought and speech cannot 
keep up with the experience of inspiration," Kruchenykh 
wrote in "The Declaration of the Word as Such." The 
principles of dissonance, disharmony, "shifts" become 
the means by which the "old reason" and traditional 
aesthetic values are overcome — "through the storm, the 
crash, the break, the shine, the blows of the steps of the 
gigantic stride of running, smashing, and shifting," as 
Malevich described in "Greeting to the Suprematists." 
Here he introduced the dissonant poetic metaphor of the 
"angle," which symbolized the rejection of the aesthetic 


criterion of beauty in nonobjective art: "By lowering the 
idea of Suprematism into shells of crudeness, we assure 
its viability. Our first step will be the beginning of this new 
road, of criss-crossing angles." Roslavets wrote in "On 
Nonobjective Art": 

In liberating himself from the power of the representational, the 
artist liberates art from the last fetters that have thus far 
prevented it from manifesting its true essence. And with the 
liberation of art will come crashing down all the fortresses of 
scholastic dogmatism erected by the bustling labor of the so- 
called "science of beauty" — aesthetics — because it is the object 
from which all its tenets were derived and upon which it was 
built; not only did "things vanish like smoke" from the artist's 
field of vision, gone like smoke as well were the rotten founda- 
tions upon which they were based over entire centuries. 

Instead of the "subjective" criterion of beauty, the 
Suprematists advanced the "objective" notion of the 
creative "law." Malevich wrote in "Cubism": 

Beauty, taste, the ideal are terribly subjective. Everyone will agree 
that a square has four corners and that 2x2 = 4.... There are 
laws and formulae about which we cannot say they are beautiful. 
Is 2 x 2 = 4 beautiful or ugly? The same obtains in the art of 
painting in particular, and in general there is a law in art that 
spares us this word. 

This idea of the objective law is expressed in the formula 
(from "The Mouth of the Earth and the Artist"): "The 
artist must do not what he wants, but what must be 
done." Malevich's "must" presupposes a universal creative 
law based on the collective, on an overcoming of the ego, 
of the "earthly" self. 

There is a deliberate tendency in the Supremus texts 
toward the extraindividual — a metamorphosis in avant- 
garde self-image from individual consciousness to 

"collective creativity." The Suprematists set out to make 
the nonobjective not an individual reflection of the soul, 
but a universal idea presumably free from the individual 
psychology and emotions of the artist, the liberation of 
the spirit through creativity. Matiushm, in "On the New 
and the Old in Music," wrote: 

The gifted and brilliant individuals of the past did not notice 
that seeping from everywhere into their originally pure creative 
flood were trickles of their little personal "I," which, as they 
merged, muddied and completely perverted their precious gift 

The strongest were obliged to savagely force their poor 
spiritual and corporeal nature in order to preserve the flame 
bearing them into the heavens free from the tasty burden of 
their little "I." 

Udaltsova interpreted feeling and taste as the "whim of 
the artist," a negative manifestation of individuality. In 
"Thoughts on Art," she wrote: "The creation of epochs is 
[according to the law and therefore] greater than the 
creation of the individual soul." Matiushin proposed that 
the recipe for overcoming the "individual" in creation, 
specifically in the new music, lay in the "furious protest of 
real, healthy dissonance. . . . The only thing that can 
smooth out these beaten tracks and habitual inspired pits 
of weary [consonance] and joys of the personal T is the 
powerful dissonance of the great intuition of the extra- 
personal set squarely before it." 

In this self-contradictory perception of art as both a 
"created construction" subject not to "I want" but to 
"one must" in accordance with an objective law, and at 
the same time as an act of pure creative will and intuition 
rather than of intellect, in this rebellious pose of the anti- 
intelligent and antnntellectual, there is a paradoxical union 
of rationalism with mysticism and utopianism, an 


approach Malevich himself aptly defined as the "intuitive 
reason" of Suprematism. 

In its entire depth, Malevich's notion of Suprematism 
represented a new epistemology of art, a spiritual quest, 
and not merely a new method in painting. He continued 
this quest beyond the boundaries of painting; in articles 
on poetry and music, in brochures, and even in letters, he 
agonizingly searched for a new critical language capable 
of expressing the weight of his ideas. Little remained in his 
writings of the romantic pathos of Futurist manifestos or 
the absurd paradoxes and irony of alogism. It is precisely 
Malevich's literary style that is the key to understanding 
the essence of his theories. His Suprematist language is 
categorical and imperatively dogmatic. The ecstatic tone 
of his essays is reminiscent of a passionate, fanatical 
sermon. In this furious attitude toward art and the word 
there is something religious, or more exactly, heretical: his 
theories must above all be "believed in." Similarly, the 
notion of the school or group in his interpretation far 
exceeded the boundaries of purely professional definitions 
or notions of the guild. As he understood it, the school 
was a "laboratory-house," a political party, a religion: 

Who will pass on the new book of new laws from our tablets? . . . 
The New Gospel in art. . . . Christ revealed heaven on earth, set 
an end to space, established two boundaries, two poles. ... As 
for us, we will pass thousands of poles. . . . Space is larger than 
heaven, stronger, more powerful, and our new book teaches the 
space of the wilderness. 42 


I would like to thank Geurt Imanse, 
Chief Curator for Research and 
Documentation, Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam, and the Foundation 
Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga for 
their gracious help in obtaining unpub- 
lished materials from the Khardzhiev 
archive. I am indebted to Charles 
Rougle for his generous help with the 
translation of the original citations, and 
I am deeply grateful to John Malmstad. 
who took upon himself the labor of 
reading the manuscript and offered 
many valuable comments. 

1. Kazimir Malevich, letter to Mikhail 
Matiushin, May 29, 1915, in "Malevich, 
K. Pisma k M. V. Matiushinu," ed. E F 
Kovtun, in Ezhegodnik rukopisnogo 
otdela Pushkinskogo Doma na 1974 
god (Leningrad: Rukopisnyi otdel 
Pushkinskogo Doma, 1976), p. 186. 

2. Malevich, letter to Matiushin, May 
27, 1915, in "Malevich, K. Pisma k 
M V Matiushinu," pp. 185-86. 

3 Malevich, letter to Matiushin, May 
29, 1915, in "Malevich, K Pisma k 
M V Matiushinu," p 186 

4. Malevich, letter to Matiushin, 
September 24, 1915, in "Malevich, K 
Pisma k M. V Matiushinu," p 187 

5. Olga Rozanova, letter to Aleksei 
Kruchenykh, December 1915, in 
Experiment 5 (1999), pp. 77-78. 

6. Malevich, letter to Matiushin, 
September 25, 1915, in "Malevich, K 
Pisma k M. V Matiushinu," 

pp 180-81 

7 Malevich, letter to Matiushin, 
October 27, 1916, in "Malevich, K. 
Pisma k M V Matiushinu," p. 186. This 
explains the 1916 dating of some of the 
extant Supremus manuscripts, particu- 
larly Matiushm's, which was not sent 
until 1917 but was probably begun in 
1916 and then laid aside 

8. The document is in the Khardzhiev 
archive. The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

9. Rozanova, letter to Kruchenykh, 
1916, in Nina Gurianova, Exploring 

Color Olga Rozanova and the Early 
Russian Avant-garde 1910-1918 
(London: Gordon & Breach, 2000), 
p. 169. 

10. Malevich, "Shto proiskhodelo v 
fevrale 1917 goda i v marte," unpub- 
lished manuscript (1917), Khardzhiev 
archive, The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

1 1 Malevich, untitled unpublished 
manuscript ("Chelovek est pechat . .") 
(1917), Khardzhiev archive, The 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev- 
Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

12. Rozanova, letter to Matiushin, May 
1917, in Gurianova, Exploring Color, 

p 168 

13. The document is in the Khardzhiev 
archive. The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

14. See E. F. Kovtun's commentaries 
in "Malevich, K Pisma k M V 
Matiushinu," p. 180. 

15 Malevich, letter to Matiushin, 
1917, in "Malevich, K. Pisma k M V 
Matiushinu," p. 195. 

16. M. M. Bakhtin, "Toward a 
Methodology for the Human Sciences," 
in Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other 
Late Essays, trans. Vern W McGee 
(Austin: University of Texas, 1986), 
p 166. 

17 Yurkevich, untitled unpublished 
manuscript (1917), Khardzhiev archive, 
The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

18. Rozanova, letter to Matiushin, May 
1917, in Gurianova, Exploring Color, 
p. 168 

19 Rozanova, letter to Andrei 
Shemshunn, late May 1917, in 
Gurianova, Exploring Color, p. 171. 

20. Rozanova, letter to Matiushin, 
June 18, 1917, Manuscript Division, 
Institute of Russian Literature 
(Pushkinskii Dom), f. 656. 


2 1 Rozanova, letter to Andrei 
Shemshurin, in Gunanova, Exploring 
Color, p. 173 

22 Nadezhda Udaltsova, "Dnevnik 
1916-1918," in Udaltsova. Zhizn russkoi 
kubistki. Dnevniki, stati, vospominaniia 
(Moscow: RA, 1994), p. 39 

23 Ibid, p 42 

24 K Malevich, "Privetstvie suprematis- 
tam" (1917). published in Experiment 5 
(1999), pp. 77-78 All quotes from this 
text are from the original manuscript 
rather than from the published source, 
due to differences in the interpretation 
of Malevich's handwriting 

25 Nikolai Roslavets, "O bespredmet- 
nom iskusstve" (1917), unpublished 
manuscript, Khardzhiev archive. The 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev- 
Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

26. K. Malevich, "Kubizm" ("Cubism") 
(1917), published in Experiment 5 
(1999), pp 94-97 All quotes from this 
text are from the original manuscript 
rather than from the published source, 
due to differences in the interpretation 
of Malevich's handwriting. 

27. K. Malevich, "Usta zemli i khudozh- 
nik" (1916-17), unpublished manuscript, 
Khardzhiev archive, The Foundation 
Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

28 Rozanova, "Kubizm, futunzm, supre- 
matizm" ("Cubism, Futurism, 
Suprematism") (1917), manuscript, 
private collection, Moscow, published 
first in English, in from Painting to 
Oesign: Russian Constructivist Art of the 
Twenties, exh. cat , ed. and trans. John 
E Bowlt (Cologne: Galene Gmurzynska, 
1981), pp. 100-13 

29. Matiushm, "0 Starom i Novom v 
muzyke" (March 20, 1916), authorized 
typewritten original, Manuscript Division, 
Mayakovsky Museum, Moscow, inv. no. 

30. Malevich, "Arkhitektura kak 
poshchechma zhelezo-betonu" (1917), 
published in the Moscow anarchist 
newspaper Anarkhna. no. 37 (1918). 

31. Malevich, "Futunzm" (1917), 
published in Anarkhiia. no 57 (1918) 

32 Ivan Kliun, Moi put v iskusstve. 
Vospominaniia, stati, dnevniki (Moscow: 
RA, 1999), pp. 250-54 

33 Udaltsova, untitled unpublished 
manuscript (1917), Khardzhiev archive, 
The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

34 Aleksei Kruchenykh, "Deklaratsua 
slova kak takovogo" (1913-17), 
manuscript, Khardzhiev archive. The 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev- 
Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 
An identical copy of this text, from 
Matiushin's archive at the State Tretiakov 
Gallery, Moscow, is published in my 

Iz literaturnogo naslediia Kruchenykh, 
Modern Russian Literature and Culture, 
vol. 41 (Berkeley: Berkeley Slavic 
Specialties, 1999), pp. 203-05. 

35. "The following is ready for publica- 
tion," Rozanova wrote to Udaltsova in 
April 1917. "1) My article ['Cubism, 
Futurism, Suprematism'] 2) Kruchenykh's 
play 3) 'Declaration of the Word' 4) the 
poetry collection Balos and 5) Blue 
Eggs — of these two collections 
Kruchenykh suggested printing whatever 
we think possible. My two poems are 
here as well; tell Malevich that I don't 
object to including them " (Gunanova, 
Exploring Color, p. 169.) The original 
manuscripts of Rozanova's article 
"Cubism. Futurism, Suprematism" and 
her and Kruchenykh's poetry are in a 
private collection in Moscow. 

36. All of these unpublished manuscripts 
are in the Khardzhiev archive, 
Amsterdam. In a note to Malevich in the 
same archive, Udaltsova mentioned 
another article for Supremus, 
"Otnoshenie publiki i kntiki k sovremen- 
nomu iskusstvu," and suggested the 
following order for printing her materi- 
als: "1) first this essay 

['No. 8'], 2) then 'The Public and the 
Critic's Attitude ' 3) letters, 4) 
'Thoughts on Art.' ... My letter to you is 
better not to publish, perhaps. " 

37 Malevich, "Nashe soznanie 
(1917); published (with the title 
"Supremus") in Experiment 5 (1999), 
pp 90-92. All quotes from this text are 
from the original manuscript rather than 
from the published source, due to differ- 
ences in the interpretation of Malevich's 

38 For a detailed discussion of 
Rozanova's contribution to the theory of 
color in Suprematism and color-painting, 
see my Exploring Color 

39. Rozanova, letter to Kruchenykh, 
summer 1915, in Gurianova, Exploring 
Color, p. 1 56. 

40. Quoted from the original manuscript 
in the Khardzhiev archive, The 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev- 
Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

41. Ibid. 

42. Malevich, letter to Matiushm, 
1917, in "Malevich, K Pisma k M. V. 
Matiushinu," p 195 










"The optimism of a nonobjectivist": This is how Kazimir Malevich 
defined his position in the philosophical polemical tract Bog ne 
skinut: Iskusstvo, Tserkov, Fabrika (God Is Not Cast Down: Art, 
Church, Factory, 1922). El Lissitzky did not understand this posi- 
tion at all. 1 

The relationship between these two major figures of twentieth- 
century art has always attracted attention. Was Lissitzky, the 
enthusiast of a renewal of Jewish art, Malevich's student in 
the usual sense of the word? Did Lissitzky betray Marc Chagall for 
Malevich? Did Lissitzky betray Malevich for European Construc- 
tivism? Did Lissitzky betray European Constructivism for Stalinist 
realism? Lissitzky's art was a busy crossroads. Here the history of 
Suprematism and Unovism met the history of the Jewish avant- 
garde, Moscow Constructivism, the European International Style 
of the 1920s, Dutch De Stijl, the Bauhaus, and the Eastern 
European avant-garde. These myriad connections help us under- 
stand more fully the development and uniqueness of the ideas of 
Malevich and Unovis. 

Lissitzky never forgot the role played in his life by his encounter 
with Suprematism. Even in the years of his conscious amnesia 
about everything avant-garde, he calmly and unhesitatingly said, 


"A special influence on me was my friendship with the late 
Malevich." 2 In recent years, many new facts have come to 
light that allow us confidently to replace the word "friend- 
ship" with the word "rivalry." Creative rivalry in and of 
itself does not preclude friendship, at least to a point, but a 
break is inevitable. 

Do you remember 1919, when we were planning to work on 
Suprematism and wanted to write a book? 

— Malevich to Lissitzky, 1924 3 

Where did they make these plans — in Vitebsk or in 
Moscow? In 1919, Lissitzky came to Moscow with his 
apprentices to buy materials for his workshop and invited 
Malevich to teach with him in Vitebsk. The invitation was 
signed by Vera Ermolaeva, rector of the Vitebsk Popular Art 
School, who knew Malevich from Petrograd. Lissitzky had 
probably checked it all with the director, Chagall, who did 
not know Malevich. Chagall felt no threat in the 
Suprematist's arrival in "my Vitebsk." After all, the Futurist 
Ivan Puni (Jean Pougny) had worked at the school for 
several months and there had been no conflicts between 
him and Chagall. Or perhaps there simply had not been 
enough time for them to arise. 

Malevich was amazed: "I didn't leave, something took 
me away. ... I was taken away to Vitebsk." 4 It happened 
swiftly. He had just enough time to do the paperwork 
necessary for a business trip to Vitebsk. It took Malevich 
and Lissitzky three days to get to Smolensk, where they 
spent the night before continuing on their journey. When 
they arrived in Vitebsk, Malevich immediately telegraphed 
Moscow, asking that his studio at the Second State Free 
Art Workshops be kept. How would things work out in the 
new place? He still hoped that a solo exhibition he was 

planning in Moscow would open in mid-November. (It did 
open, but not until March 25, 1920.) 

As of November 1, 1919, Malevich was registered as a 
professor in Vitebsk. It looked as if he would avoid the cold 
and impoverished winter in Moscow, where people were 
stealing fences for fuel. He would get a rest from the 
constant conflicts with Izo Narkompros (the Department of 
Fine Arts of the People's Commissariat of Education). 
Malevich's usual opponent within the avant-garde was 
Vladimir Tatlin, but he also argued with Vasily Kandinsky, 
who had a lot to say about which paintings would be 
bought for museums and to which museums they would 
go, 5 and Osip Brik, who had been put in charge of reform- 
ing the Second State Free Art Workshops in May 1919, was 
wary of him. However, Malevich's main "enemy" was 
David Shterenberg, head of Izo Narkompros, who had his 
own, Parisian, point of view (just as Kandinsky had a 
prewar Munich point of view), which differed greatly from 
the radical outlook of the Moscow innovators. 6 

In Vitebsk, there were plans to publish Malevich's theo- 
retical text novykh sistemakh v iskusstve (On New 
Systems in Art), to which Malevich added "Ustanovlenie 
A" ("Statute A"). Three paintings by Malevich, Portrait of 
the Artist Kliun (1913), Cow on Violin (1913), and 
Suprematism (n.d.), were hung at the Pervaia gosu- 
darstvennaia vystavka kartin mestnykh i moskovskikh 
khudozhnikov (First State Exhibition of Paintings by Local 
and Moscow Artists), which opened in Vitebsk a week 
after Malevich's arrival there. Lissitzky showed works on 
Jewish themes. Chagall worried about nothing. On 
November 17, Malevich gave a lecture at the exhibition, 
titled "Latest Trends in Art (Impressionism, Cubism, and 
Futurism)." This was a familiar topic for him, but for the 



audience, which included intellectuals from Petrograd, it 
was strange, new information, and the lecture was received 
with interest. Two rallies followed. At one, on December 9, 
Lissitzky spoke out in defense of pure art: "A bird sings 
freely and an artist must work just as freely." 7 

Lissitzky's students became Malevich's followers. His 
personality had an overwhelming effect on the students, as 
it had once had on Lissitzky. They perceived him not only 
as a professor who could teach them to work profession- 
ally, European-style, to earn a living from their art, but as a 
guide to the unknown system of views called Suprematism, 
the discoverer of which was before them. Of course, 
Malevich, like others, played at revolutionary talk, but 
he also called passionately on the students to be alive in 
art and told them that modernity represented purity of 
the individual. 

Malevich, a born prophet and leader, found himself in a 
favorable atmosphere. A group of young people (some as 
young as fourteen) had formed around him in just a few 
weeks. He was supported, on the faculty, by Ermolaeva 
and Nina Kogan. At Lissitzky's request, he edited On New 
Systems in Art. He was sure that the thin book, which 
would be published "by primitive methods," 8 would 
become not only "the trace of my path but the start of our 
collective movement." 9 

The first project of the "collective movement" led by 
Malevich and Lissitzky was decorations for the two-year- 
anniversary convocation of the Vitebsk Committee to 
Combat Unemployment. The group painted 1,500 square 
meters of canvas, three buildings, and the stage of the city 
theater, where the committee's main meeting was to be 
held. A sketch for the curtain, 10 perhaps Lissitzky and 
Malevich's only joint decorative project, was, if not the first, 





then one of the first for 
Lissitzky in the Suprematist 
style and opened the path 
to his Prouns. 

The group of young 
artists around Malevich 
began to feel theirs was a 
special creative movement 
not bound by the frame- 
work of the Vitebsk school. 
How were they to define 
themselves? As young 

Cubists? But after the Cubists had come the Futurists and 
the Suprematists. As young followers of the new art? But 
why only followers? Finally they came up with a word: 
Unovis. Affirmers of the New Art. Unity. Their motto could 
have been pro unovis (for the common cause). Unovis tried 
to establish its leadership among the city's art circles. It 
wanted to replace the cultural structures of the local 
authorities with the Council for the Affirmation of New 
Forms in Art, with Malevich, Lissitzky, Ermolaeva, and 
Kogan on the board. They forgot Chagall, even though he 
was considered director of the school until the end of June 
1920 Ivan Gavris, a member of the first Unovis Creative 
Committee, related eight years later that "propaganda 
came from all sides. It reached the point at which Marc 
Chagall, under pressure from the extreme left, could not 
establish the ideology of his individual-innovator move- 
ment. His audience had been propagandized away."" 

That Unovis worked is due in great part to Lissitzky and 
Ermolaeva, but Malevich's ideas and his very image had a 
decisive impact on Unovis and the fate of Suprematism in 
the 1920s. 12 Malevich proposed a new artistic ideology, 



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with which he hoped not only to change the world — who 
didn't grandly proclaim that in the 1920s'?' — but a new 
attitude toward art, as a philosophy and a way of life. In 
doing so, he countered not only earlier and contemporary 
ideologies of art, but also the new structures that post- 
October Revolution Russia was offering the world. Unlike 
Malevich, Lissitzky did not have a globalizing idea. Devoted 
to the idea of new art as a whole and sensitive to the 
possibilities and nuances of the new, he perceived them 
personally, as his own. 

Malevich imagined his idea of a universal art being real- 
ized and developed over a long period of time, as a 
synthetic system similar to that of the Antique or the 
Gothic. His idea awaited those who would realize it, 
refining, polishing, and elaborating on it. Teaching, for 
him, was a way of finding and creating the people who 
would do this. An organic irrationalist, he built teaching, 
with enviable rationality, as a path for seeking new 
perspectives in art. 

Early on, he had begun thinking about how to make 
the experience of new art the basis of training and educat- 
ing a new artistic personality. One of the first confirmations 

of his intention to move from polemicizing with everyone 
and everything to constructive work had been his public 
popular-scholarly lecture "Obruchennie koltsom gorizonta 
i noviya idei v iskusstv: kubizm, futurism, suprematizm" 
("Betrothed by the Ring of the Horizon and the New Ideas 
in Art: Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism"), presented on the 
eve of the revolutionary events of February 1917 in the 
Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The artist began, 
as usual, with a sarcastic reply to the foes of avant-garde 
art, the idols of the intelligentsia: Dmitri Merezhkovsky, an 
ideologue of Symbolism and the new religious conscious- 
ness; Alexandre Benois, an artist and critic and leader of 
the artistic association World of Art; Nikolai Berdyaev, a 
leading figure of the religio-philosophical renaissance of 
the Silver Age and one of the precursors of existentialism; 
and Petr Kogan, a Marxist and a sociologist, one of the 
active foes of new art in the 1920s. But the concluding part 
of the lecture bore a calm, positive character. Without any 
attempt to shock, Malevich demonstrated and explained 
Cubist, Futurist, and Suprematist drawings and paintings, 
trying to persuade the audience and to explain his princi- 
ples. As a visual aid, he drew Cubist pictures. (Masterly 
drawing as a method of explaining the laws of modern 
composition would subsequently be used by Malevich's 
students in Vitebsk.) 

In 1918-19, Malevich's still rather abstract concepts of 
art teaching took on concrete shape and clarity. He taught 
simultaneously at the First State Free Art Workshops 
(where his assistant was Nadezhda Udaltsova) and the 
Second State Free Art Workshops (where his assistant was 
Antome Pevsner). The teaching experience at the latter 
school, where Malevich had a profound impact on Gustav 
Klutsis, Ivan Kudriashev, and Sergei Senkin, was particularly 


valuable. It was also here that losif Meerzon and Tevel 
Shapiro (later Tatlin's assistants in the construction of the 
model of the Monument to the Third Communist 
International [1919]) and Georgi Krutikov (who would stun 
Moscow's architectural circles in the late 1920s with his 
project for a flying city) got their start. 

In the program for his studio at the Second State Free 
Art Workshops, presented to the Soviet of Masters and 
dated September 15, 1919, Malevich clearly outlined his 
teaching process. Within this program are several passages 
that relate particularly to his future teaching in Vitebsk 
(indeed, a comparison of this program with the programs 
from Vitebsk shows a conscious borrowing): 

Group 1. Abstraction of things, knowledge of painting and 
sculptural volumes, planes, lines, and curves. Preparatory course 
for Cubism. 

These precepts became the foundation for assignments 
in the preparatory workshop taught by Nina Kogan in 
Vitebsk. In her article "On the Schedule of the Unified 
Program of Unovis, " published in Unovis: Handbill of the 
Vitebsk Creative Committee (no. 1 , November 20, 1920), 
she cites, as the guide for action, a fragment of a letter 
from Malevich to Kudnashev (who at the time was organiz- 
ing art workshops in Orenburg): 

Every thing is composed or made up of lines, curves, volumes, and 
planes, which basically come from the movement of the point. But 
the main idea is that each of these primary elements ... is turned 
into a body, that is, an organism. [F]rom what has become clear 
about how things and all that is visible in nature are formed, and 
of what they primarily consist, came the new method of teaching. 

Malevich's Second State Free Art Workshops program 

Group 2. Cubism. . . Cubism and nature, statics and move- 
ment. . . . The symmetry in painting of color elements, mass of 
form and construction. Sculpture. Constructing forms by the 
system of Cubism. 

Group 3. Futurism. . . . Futurism and nature, city and country, 
elements of city and country as things influencing the course of 
construction of a dynamic moment. 

Group 4. Suprematism. . Constructing forms by the system 
of Suprematism 

In light of this, Malevich's idea of organizing a Russia-wide 
Unovis group based on his teaching program does not 
seem unrealistic: the general, most fundamental principles 
had already been laid out. 

/ am running the entire school, learning from myself. 

— Malevich to Mikhail Gershenzon, 1920 - 

The Suprematism that Malevich brought to Vitebsk had a 
great advantage over other systems of art. Extolling the 
"primacy of color," it operated in the pure language of 
geometry. It did not matter that its philosophical basis was 
not very understandable. Its language was like the 
language of icons, in that icon painting is taught and the 




understanding of its spiritu- 
ality comes later; the 
Suprematist composition, 
once it had achieved the 
status of a sign, would also 
acquire meaning. 

The Vitebsk programs 
were based on the "law of 
geometric economy." 15 
Economy concentrates the 
power of form. Geometry 
could have become the 
subject of a new philoso- 
phy, but the experience of 
Suprematism in 1916-17 showed that it could exist in 
another state by becoming more "practical": "Machine, 
house, person, table — they are all painting's volume 
systems, intended for specific goals." Therefore, a "new 
style of Suprematist decoration" was possible. 16 

Unovis began with Suprematism as a style for decorat- 
ing a city through the means of geometry. What was the 
connection between this decorative Suprematism and 
Suprematism as an artistic system as a whole? Decorative 
Suprematism wanted to learn about its roots. Students 
approached analytical lessons in the studio more 
consciously. Their work in the city sharpened their interest 
in architecture. The curriculum was perceived as a sum of 
knowledge and techniques in Modern art, but most of all 
as a program for developing creativity. Here we see a 
relationship with the early Vkhutemas (Higher Artistic- 
Technical Workshops) in Moscow and with the Bauhaus, 
although the Vitebsk programs were probably less formal. 
Their emphasis was on the belief that the "system in art 

is the sum of systems of interrelationships, actions that 
form . . . man's world view as a whole." 17 

Malevich was in no hurry. He waited for the students to 
reach an understanding of the system on their own. 
Lissitzky was more impatient. Just like the students and the 
other teachers, he had to grasp his own attitude toward 
the foundations of Suprematism. A paradoxical situation 
arose: having produced a series of effective decorative 
projects and having turned into something of a 
Suprematist, Lissitzky worked with incredible energy and 
passion on his own system, which he would later call 
"Prounism" (deriving the term "Proun" from proekt 
Unovisa [project of Unovis] or proekt utverzhdeniia novogo 
[project of the affirmation of the new]). For the artists in his 
workshop, being next to the Prouns was interesting, but, 
judging by their work, it did not keep them from taking 
their own paths toward Suprematism. "Prounism" 
remained only the personal invention of Lissitzky; it did not 
become a new school, even though the effect of Lissitzky's 
teaching on his students' imaginations is evident in such 
projects as Ilia Chashnik's design for a tribune for Red 
Square in Smolensk, published in Unovis: Handbill of the 
Vitebsk Creative Committee (no. 1). 

The connection between Prouns and Malevich's 
Suprematism and Klutsis's Dynamic City (1919) lies in the 
cosmos: Suprematist space replaced earthly reality, and the 
Prouns were a kind of cosmic experiment (rather than a 
way station on the path to architecture). If Prouns did 
move into architecture itself, it was for exhibitions, where 
they brilliantly employed a clash of perspectives and visual 
effects. Malevich later noted calmly, "Even though Prouns 
are close to Suprematism, still their dynamic relations are 
not the same as in Suprematism. The moves are different 


and even the figures in the chess game are different, even 
though the game is chess." 18 

Lissitzky later claimed that after his departure from 
Vitebsk, his studio, under Malevich's influence, had lost 
interest in architecture, but this was not true. Architecture 
remained a central focus in the Vitebsk studios, as a new 
art. Lissitzky's former studio, which the students 
proclaimed to be the architectural-technical department, 
continued to function as an experimental workshop, even 
though it had no real leader. Malevich continued to give it 
his special attention, but the tone was set there by Nikolai 
Suetin, Chashnik, Ivan Chervinko, and Lazar Khidekel. 
Malevich and his closest students in Vitebsk had already 
come to see the law that at Gmkhuk (State Institute of 
Artistic Culture) in Leningrad would be called the "law of 
complementary elements": "Every thing consists of 
contrasting combinations of various forms."' 9 The course 
stressed dynamics, which led to "further creative develop- 
ment in the field of volumetric material Suprematism, 
which led to actual construction. Thus . . . ends the follow- 
ing of the system of development of creativity, and it 
continues as discoveries in the field of as yet undiscovered 
systems." 20 Suprematism remained the path into the 
unknown, the new. "In it arises the idea of a new organ- 
ism, construction, in which science, technology, 
architecture, and painting arts must form their unity." 21 

In one of his passionate Vitebsk declarations, "Become 
Builders" ("Stante stroiteliami"), Lissitzky called upon his 
students and all young artists with a conviction worthy of 
Malevich: "You will build a new sign for a new world — its 
secret will be guessed by those who will follow us. And 
then you will stop being professionals and become univer- 
sal. The rectangle of a painting's canvas will be too 

cramped for you, and you will enter into the square of 
life." 22 The young Vitebsk students came out into the 
square of life early, but the rectangle of the painting's 
canvas called to them. This is where it had all begun, and 
this is where they returned with what they had found 
outside painting. "Malevich painted a black square. The 
artist dared to risk destruction," proclaimed Lissitzky. 23 
Malevich's sacrifice was a salvation. Puni said of Black 
Square (1915), "the artistic qualities of such a work are 
clearly not great." 24 Probably there are many who think 
so today. 

Art has once again met the figurative world of motors and 
machines, the world of technology, which it must destroy as it did 
the figurative world of academic arts, and only then will come the 
true form of the new world. 

—Malevich, draft of a letter to Dutch artists, 1921* 

In October 1920, Unovis held a conference in Smolensk, 
where Vladislav Strzhemmsky was in charge of fine arts. 
Malevich, Chashnik, Khidekel, and Lissitzky attended the 
conference From Smolensk, Lissitzky headed to Moscow, 
not knowing whether he would ever return to Vitebsk. An 
official pass, a document characteristic of the passing era 
of military Communism, was required for the trip — the 
civil war had not ended, even though peace had been 
made with Poland. "The holder depicted in the photo- 
graph, Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, is a professor at the 
Vitebsk State Free Art Workshops, which is attested by the 
signatures and attached seal." 26 

In Vitebsk, life went on. There were exhibitions and 
discussions of the most varied problems in art. Outside the 
studios, however, there was conflict after conflict. Inspired 
by the example of the Moscow authorities, those in 






Vitebsk began a planned attack on Unovis. By order of the 
Vitebsk Provincial Committee of Labor, the artists of 
Unovis, including Malevich, were required to take part in 
the design and decoration of the city for the third anniver- 
sary of the October Revolution. The designs they proposed 
were rejected. Unovis's foes tried to "straighten out" its 
pedagogical work. Malevich boldly defended his child, but 
his physical and psychological overextension was evident. 
Later, he would believe that he "lost a lot [of time] in 
Vitebsk." 27 At a difficult moment, he even appealed as an 
artist of the new art to his eternal opponent, Shterenberg, 
"I've been in exile long enough; it is time for me to work in 
the center, if you have not changed your mind about 
appointing me head of the International Bureau [of Izo 
Narkompros] and offering me a studio." 28 

Despite this, serious work continued in Vitebsk. In 
December 1920, the Unovis studios published Malevich's 
album Suprematizm: 34 risunka (Suprematism: 34 
Drawings), a unique graphic work and methodological 
manual, a collection of basic Suprematist compositions. It 
had been assumed that the preface would be written by 
Lissitzky. At that time, a plan was also in place to publish a 
collection of Malevich's texts in German; the texts had 
been given to Lissitzky so that he could familiarize himself 
with them and eventually translate them, but a brief 
conflict arose when it was thought that Lissitzky had lost 
Malevich's materials. Lissitzky's text for the Malevich album 
was awaited patiently. The end result is known, however: 
the teacher wrote the preface himself. 

There are various possible answers to the question of 
why Lissitzky did not write the text. A short-lived sulk or his 
incredible busyness in Moscow are among the least likely. It 
is more probable that he was just too involved in preparing 


an album of his Prouns, writing the text for it. (The album 
came out in January 1921 ) Lissitzky sensed his connection 
to Malevich and wanted his presence and support in 
Moscow. "You're not meant to stay in Vitebsk," he 
wrote. 29 Malevich came to Moscow at every opportunity, 
but his hopes of getting his own studio at Vkhutemas were 
illusory. So were his hopes of creating a Russia-wide Unovis 
collective from the Vitebsk group and former students 
from the Second State Free Art Workshops, who he hoped 
would become instructors of the new art throughout the 
country. Malevich clearly underestimated the seriousness 
and significance of the events that occurred after his 
departure to the provinces from Moscow. 

Malevich's former students Klutsis and Senkm, both of 
whom were extremely active and influential among 
Moscow's young artists, had told Malevich that they would 
head Unovis's Creative Committee in that city. But 
Malevich was displeased by their ineffectiveness in assert- 
ing the ideas of Unovis: "The Moscow Creative Committee 
is lagging behind; it's still a baby chick." 30 The Muscovites 
were perhaps chilled by the ban by Izo Narkompros on the 
magazine Vestnik ispolkoma Moskovskikh Vysshikh 
Gosudartsvennykh Masterskikh {Bulletin of the Executive 
Committee of the Moscow Higher State Studios), prepared 
in the fall of 1920 on the initiative of Senkin, a former 
secretary of the All-Russian Central Committee of Students 
at Izo Narkompros. The magazine had offered its pages to 
the artists group of Obmokhu and, naturally, to Unovis. 
Malevich harshly criticized what he believed were the 
compromising positions of the department, which attacked 
Tatlin almost ritually. 3 ' Senkin pushed for the idea of form- 
ing a new "party in art," forgetting that he and Klutsis had 
already become members of the Bolshevik Party. A party, 

even in art, seemed like a daring and absurd challenge, for 
the country was already becoming one with a single party 
and a single ideology. 

This is only the superficial picture, however. Senkin was 
at a crossroads. He liked what both Lissitzky and Aleksandr 
Rodchenko were doing, but he was oriented primarily 
toward Klutsis's work. Klutsis, who, along with Naum 
Gabo and Pevsner, had taken part in Vystavka 
posvyashchenniya III Kongressu Kominterna (Exhibition 
Dedicated to the Third Congress of the Comintern), the 
legendary exhibition held on Tverskoi Boulevard in 1921, 
was following a path that touched only slightly upon 
Suprematism. "I am building a new reality that never 
existed before," he wrote in January 1921. 32 Klutsis was 
looking forward to a Unovis exhibition in Moscow, but he 
was also waiting for an Inkhuk (Institute of Artistic Culture) 
exhibition planned for spring 1922 (which never took 
place). His work was appreciated equally by the Vitebsk 
artists and by artists who declared themselves to be 
Constructivists. The "inertia" of Unovis's Moscow Creative 
Committee, then, was rather a question of creative differ- 
ences. Klutsis could not understand the philosophical 
ambitions of Suprematism, the ever-increasing interest in 
artistic ideology in Vitebsk. 

Lissitzky appreciated Klutsis right away. He understood 
his desire to bring things to technological perfection, to 
make a kind of artistic design ready, in theory, for technical 
realization. This was not a Utopian aspiration but invention, 
arising at the intersection of artistic and technical imagina- 
tion. Lissitzky, who had the amazing ability to incorporate 
the most varied things into his work without eclecticism, 
was broader and deeper, however. The architect in him 
was always correcting the enthusiasms of the artist. He 


was very attentive to how the new architects understood 
form, or rather, wanted to understand it. It was at this time 
that Lissitzky first came into contact with Nikolai Ladovsky, 
the future leader and theoretician of Asnova (Association 
of New Architects), with which Lissitzky would work in the 
second half of the 1920s. Asnova tied the understanding 
of formalism in architecture to artistic rationalism. There 
was some interest in bringing Lissitzky to the department 
of architecture at Vkhutemas, not as a practicing architect, 
but as a person from the realm of art. There was talk about 
a course on monumental painting and architecture. 
Lissitzky was planning to give a lecture on that topic at 
Inkhuk. For the time being, however, he taught drafting to 
electrical-engineering students there. Lissitzky watched 
closely the work of the Constructivists — two groups who 
were very different in their goals, Obmokhu and the artists 
who raised the banner of Industrial Constructivism. 

A still hidden but real divide was forming between 
Lissitzky and Malevich and Unovis. Malevich spoke out 
harshly against both groups who called themselves 
Constructivists. Among the Industrial Constructivists were 
artists who had recently appeared in exhibitions with paint- 
ings under the sign of Suprematism — Liubov Popova, 
Aleksandr Vesnin, and Rodchenko (who had responded to 
white Suprematism with Black on Black [1919]). Polemic 
breeds persistent stereotypes, and anyone who had studied 
with Malevich knew that Rodchenko exemplified the incor- 
rect, superficial understanding of nonfigurative art. 

Some time later, Lissitzky would recall the Vitebsk days 
and realize how much had been done during that time, 
and how many future developments had been foretold 
there. He began to feel that Constructivism had appeared 
in parallel in Vitebsk and Moscow, before Tatlin's tower and 

Constructivist theater design had emerged. But he would 
not have been understood either in Moscow or in Vitebsk. 
Of course, Unovis had Chashnik's design for the Smolensk 
tribune, but on the whole the path of its work was differ- 
ent from that taken in Moscow. What kind of 
Constructivism were the Muscovites talking about? 
Lissitzky would work in the West for some time before 
being able to answer that question. 

Lissitzky wanted to be in the West in order to open its 
eyes to the new Russian art, which in Germany was 
perceived through the prism of Kandinsky and Chagall. The 
arrival in Berlin of Puni and Aleksandr Arkhipenko had not 
cardinally changed the perception. Malevich supported 
Lissitzky in his desire to go away for two years. At least 
Unovis would have a reliable emissary and propagandizer. 
This was particularly necessary given that the group was 
negotiating the first big exhibition of Russian Modern art 
abroad. Lissitzky worked in the Comintern publishing 
house, had many friends in Communist cultural circles, and 
had even studied in Germany. A better ambassador for 
Unovis could not have been imagined. 

We know that Klutsis traveled on Comintern business to 
Denmark in 1921, but we do not know what kind of 
"revolution" he was planning to organize in the peaceful 
homeland of Hans Christian Andersen. We can only 
surmise. There were also the wishes and instructions 
from Unovis: to defend the group's interests in the West, 
in particular at the first exhibition of Russian art in 
Germany, Erste russische Kunstausstellung (First Russian 
Art Exhibition), to be held at the Galerie van Diemen, 
Berlin, in 1922. 

Plans for the exhibition had been discussed as early as 


spring 1921, but preparation was slow and Malevich and 
many of his students had already left Vitebsk for Petrograd 
by the time it opened in late fall of the following year. All 
sides had their own interests: The gallery, naturally, had 
commercial interests to consider. It was taking a certain 
risk, for its business until that time had been in classical art. 
The German authorities were counting on the diplomatic 
effect of the exhibition; postwar Germany could not afford 
to overlook even revolutionary Russia. The Soviet authori- 
ties, of course, would have preferred to earn money on the 
sale of works from the show, but the propaganda effect 
was too important. Far from all Bolsheviks still believed in 
the final victory of their revolution. If the victory of world 
revolution were to take place, however, it would come 
through revolution in Germany. 

The People's Commissar of Education, Anatoly 
Lunacharsky, was, in the end, pleased by the exhibition's 
political success, but he noted the displeasure of many 
artists, especially the ones from Petrograd. 33 Shterenberg 
had been placed in charge of the exhibition overall, but the 
works from Petrograd had been curated by Natan Altman. 
Shterenberg's assistant in clerical matters had been a 
young artist from Obmokhu, Nikolai Denisovsky, a student 
of Georgi Yakolov. From time to time, Gabo and Lissitzky 
dropped in at the gallery while the show was being set up. 
Malevich was kept abreast of all developments by Lissitzky. 
He had made an ideological decision to show four works 
from his 1920 solo exhibition: Black Square (1915; page 
118), Black Circle (1915), Black Cruciform Planes (1915), 
and White Square (1918). Interestingly, he did not include 
Red Square (1915; page 126), which at the time was hang- 
ing at Mikhail Matiushm's house in Petrograd. 34 There 
would have been no problem getting it for the show, but 

Red Square was not important to universal Unovis. The 
black cross was titled Black Cruciform Planes and nothing 
else — no mysticism. What should this group of works be 
called, if the catalogue would not have any essays or mani- 
festos? "Suprematism 1913 Russia." Was this 
quasi-nationalist? That was dubious; the Suprematists were 
dealing only with art. "Being idealistic in art, I ask you to 
be idealistic toward me, too." 35 

The works of Malevich and Unovis looked good, 
formally. There were methodological drawings on Cubism 
made in the Vitebsk studios. Malevich's works were 
presented in the catalogue. They were more than noticed, 
they intrigued people; their influence (just as that of the 
Prouns) was indubitable. But what was Unovis? That was 
not made clear. Malevich's mam request — that 
Suprematism and Unovis appear clearly as a special move- 
ment — was not met. 

But it was just an exhibition and there would be others. 
There were still plans for an international art magazine, 
born in the bowels of the International Bureau of Izo 
Narkompros and supported as a propaganda tool by influ- 
ential Party-Comintern bosses. 36 Lissitzky began publishing 
the magazine Veshch/Gegenstand/Objet (Object) together 
with the writer Ilia Ehrenburg. "We have at last realized 
here the idea that was born long ago in Russia — the publi- 
cation of an international journal of modern art." 37 

Veshch was not merely another magazine of Modern 
art, but the megaphone through which a new attitude 
toward art could be expressed. Its reader and follower was 
the European intellectual who believed in new art and the 
humanistic transformation of the world. Veshch was to be 
a discussion club, where answers to those overly general 
questions could be found. Many people in Moscow and 



Petrograd could not understand this approach. Lissitzky felt 
a certain embarrassment regarding his Vitebsk colleagues 
and Malevich: Veshch was immediately regarded as an 
international review and not as a conduit for Suprematist 
propaganda. Suprematism had a visible place in the jour- 
nal, but it was presented not as a springboard to the 
future, but simply as one of the components of the new. 

Lissitzky was living in a new artistic climate. Common 
terms had a different meaning for him than for his 
colleagues in Moscow and Petrograd. He could recom- 
mend, perhaps unsurprisingly, the De Stijl rationalist Theo 
van Doesburg as a Suprematist, but more unexpected was 
his revision of the concept of Constructivism. It was proba- 
bly Lissitzky who was the first to suggest uniting the 
different examples of the new style that had emerged in 
various countries under that term. In Germany, many 
understood almost instantly that Constructivism had come 
from mysterious revolutionary Russia. The idea of a 
Constructivist International arose (substituted, by Lissitzky, 
for Malevich's idea of a universal Unovis). The idea 
was short-lived, however. Yesterday's Dadaists — now 
respectable Bauhaus professors, De Stijl masters — rejected 
Expressionism, the new objectivity, and Art Deco, but 
they all had their own point of view regarding what art 
should be. 

Malevich was known in innovative circles (Kurt 
Schwitters, for example, devoted one of the grottoes in his 
multiobject Merzbau to him). He was becoming, in great 
part due to Lissitzky, one of the myths of the new art — 
attractive, frightening, and mysterious, mystic and revolu- 
tionary. Mystic? He was simply a master who revealed 
geometry as the language of Modern art: "We want every 
form, volume, and plane to be geometric in its economic 


necessity," the program for the Vitebsk studios had 
proclaimed. 38 

Adolph Benet, one of the organizers of the First 
Universal German Art Exhibition, shown in Moscow, 
Leningrad, and Saratov in 1924-25, and a good friend of 
Lissitzky and Sophie Kuppers, noted "the striking influence 
... of the Russian Constructivists" and that "Lissitzky, a 
Russian Constructive artist working in Germany, has done 
much to familiarize Germans with the achievements of the 
new Russian art." 39 

International congresses of artists in Weimar and 
Dusseldorf in 1922 showed the illusoriness of trying to 
create a Constructive International. The schism was based 
not only on artistic issues, but on sociopolitical positions as 
well. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, accustomed to being on the 
cutting edge of art fashion, did not know what he would 
be in the coming season — Suprematist, Constructive, or 
something else. Hungarian artists and theoreticians were 
the most receptive to the ideas coming out of Russia. But 
leftists of all stripes, from the fanatic Hungarian 
Communist Bella Witz to Walter Gropius, had to wonder 
whether the art called Constructive was the art of univer- 
sal socialism, as Boris Arvatov and Brik, the theoreticians of 
Moscow's Industrial Constructivism, maintained, or 
whether it was simply an object of aesthetics from the era 
of the unfolding industrial-scientific revolution? Vladimir 
Mayakovsky, agitating for the triumph of Communist 
ideas, boldly asserted the priority of Moscow innovation 
over its Western counterpart. For Brik, the Bauhaus was 
something resembling Vkhutemas. 40 

This new Bolshevik nationalism was profoundly alien to 
Lissitzky. Moscow Constructivism, which he had been 
regarding with growing interest, was diluted by the general 



ZURICH, 1929 

European understanding of Constructivism, as was 
Suprematism. Moholy-Nagy suspected that the people in 
the Moscow group Lef thought differently from Lissitzky, 
but it was Lissitzky's interpretation that would become the 
accepted one for many years. Indeed, at Konstruktivisten 
(Constructivists), a large exhibition shown at the Kunsthalle 
Basel in 1937, works by Lissitzky and Malevich, Mondrian 
and Rodchenko, Kandinsky and Schwitters were all put 
under the banner of Constructivism. 

Malevich and his students did not accept either 
Moscow Constructivism or much of Western European 
Constructivism. Malevich tried to see Moscow 
Constructivism in the historical context of changes in art. 
"Constructivism is one of the phenomena of painting 
movements in art, beginning its development in Russia, 
during the years of active revolution, headed by a group of 
young artists and poets. The true belief of Constructivism is 
that an artwork must be economical, expedient, devoid of 
aestheticism. Constructivism is all about seeking uses for its 
form and construction in all materials, utilitarian objects, 
and things. Much in its form and construction is borrowed 
from Cubism." 4 ' The last sentence is quite remarkable, 
suggesting that Constructivism was at an earlier, less 
perfected stage of development than was Suprematism. 

Lissitzky had left the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist 
Republic (RSFSR), but he returned to a different country, 
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), in 1925. The 
notion of world revolution was being forgotten. He had 
left feeling that he was a member of Unovis, but for about 
eighteen months he had sent no news to his former 
Vitebsk colleagues who had followed Malevich to 
Petrograd. Lissitzky had begun to work on a different 


plane. Malevich had accepted this change as a fait 
accompli, and Lissitzky, despite his own work and illness, 
had continued to respond to all of Malevich's requests, 
whether related to a package or to the organization of a 
sale in the West. The two discussed how it could have 
happened that three Suprematist works chosen in 
Leningrad to be shown at the Russian pavilion of the 
Venice Biennale in 1924 had been included in the cata- 
logue but not exhibited. Lissitzky also offered his help in 
organizing exhibitions of work by Malevich and Ginkhuk 
in Germany. 

Malevich suggested to Lissitzky that he stay in the 
West. He didn't think Russia would offer him the same 
opportunities for his work, especially in publishing. Lissitzky 
may have been a turncoat, a constructor assembler who 
was practically in the same company as Rodchenko and 
Aleksei Gan, but where else could he find such a loyal 
assistant? The main connection between the two artists 
remained the idea of publishing a book of Malevich's writ- 
ings in the West. Lissitzky set himself an incredibly complex 
task: to create, from Malevich's philosophical, theoretical, 
and polemical texts, a book that would be accessible to the 
Western reader. The texts irritated him, were alien to him, 
but they still worked like magic incantations; overwhelm- 
ing, all-destroying energy came from them. His translation 
of the texts turned into an argument with Malevich. He 
believed that much of the writing was mediocre philoso- 
phy. In an era that valued expediency, functionality, and 
clarity reduced to elementarism, Malevich's global artistic- 
philosophical project was not easy to understand. It was 
not a simple task to explain it and to write commentary 
about it; finally, Lissitzky's approach was to simplify and 
consciously straighten out the ideas. In doing so, he 

accented the general importance of Malevich's formal 
discoveries, bringing geometrism to the forefront as in the 
days of Unovis. Lissitzky's famous 1925 essay "A.[rt] and 
Pangeometry" is in essence an ode to the black square, the 
point at which the new art began. 42 

Lissitzky's work in the first half of the 1920s is an 
immutable and organic part of European art culture. There 
was much that did not suit him in the Moscow art world, 
but, a sober practitioner and brilliant inventor, he created a 
new printing shop. Using the experience of the West and 
Moscow design of the 1920s, he created a completely new 
style of exhibition design. He brought in Aleksandr 
Naumov, Lydia Zharova, and Nikolai Prusakov — former 
members of Obmokhu — and Klutsis and Senkin — former 
followers of Malevich in the unsuccessful Moscow iteration 
of Unovis — to work on the USSR pavilion for Pressa 
(International Press Exhibition) in Cologne in 1928. 
Everything Lissitzky took on was a success, for his audience 
was the European public, whom he understood. 

The idea of creating a pure, plastic architecture was 
one of the basic tenets in the work of the Suprematists 
who united around Malevich. Lissitzky was planning to 
enter into public discussion with Malevich on the subject. 
His concept of architecture differed strongly from that 
presented in Malevich's writings. For Malevich, Western 
architecture, which he associated with Le Corbusier and 
the Bauhaus, was too utilitarian, devoid of harmony and 
purity (understood by Malevich as Platonic perfection). In 
these arguments, architecture was discussed both in terms 
of specific works by Modern architects and in terms of 
architecture in general. 

We do not know the details of the break between 
Lissitzky and Malevich, which took place after their first 


sentimental meeting in Leningrad on the way from 
Germany to Moscow in 1927, but the break was based on 
principles. They ran into each other again at VOKS (All- 
Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign 
Countries) in Leningrad in 1930, and it was as if nothing 
had ever happened, as though they were mere acquain- 
tances. Lissitzky could not understand why Malevich 
was painting again, and his architektons remained alien 
to him. He did not see in them the embryo of future devel- 
opments in world architecture. The colorful, joyous world 
of post-Suprematism, which combined the icon with 
Impressionism, was opposed to the prosaic world of utili- 
tarianism, but Malevich's architektons seemed to have 
awaited their hour. If one were to make a Suprematist 
object from them, it would be Manhattan, only in an ideal 
form, harmonic and light. 

Translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis. 


1. El Lissitzky, letter to Kazimir Malevich, 
September 9. 1924, The Foundation 
Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, published 
in the brochure Pisma Kazimiru 
Malevichu, El Ussttskomu, i Nikolaiu 
Puninu s 10-kh godov, ed Aleksandra 
Shatskikh and L Zykov (Moscow: 
Pinakoteka, 2000). 

Letters from the Foundation Cultural 
Center Khardzhiev-Chaga have been 
published in Russian by I Menshova in 
the journal Experiment, vol. 5 (1999), 
V kruge malevicha Soratniki Ucheniki 
Posledovateli v floss/7 1920- 1950-kh 
godov. exh cat. (St Petersburg: State 
Russian Museum, 2000), and Malevich o 
sebe Sovremenniki o Maleviche Pisma. 
Dokumenty Vospominaniia. Kntika, 2 
vols , compiled by Irina Vakar and Tatiana 
Mikhienko (Moscow: RA, 2003), among 
other publications (For this latter publi- 
cation, the texts were compared with 
photocopies of the originals in order to 
avoid the inevitable minor variations in 
their transcription, and certain inaccura- 
cies in the commentaries of the two 
earlier publications were corrected.) 

2 Lissitzky, "Information on the Book 
Artist's Work: Replies to a Question- 
naire," in Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers, El 
Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts (Greenwich, 
Conn New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 

3 Malevich, letter to Lissitzky, June 17, 
1924, Experiment, vol 5 (1999), p 153 

4 Malevich, letter to Mikhail Matiushin, 
January 21, 1920, Manuscript Division, 
State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, f 25, 
no 9, p. 26 

5. In the spring of 1919, Malevich had 
written to the Collegium of Fine Arts, 
demanding that they annul the sale of 
his works to the Museum of Painterly 
Culture. The letter is in my archive; 
published in Andrei Nakov, Kazimir 
Malewics: Catalogue raisonne (Pans: 
Adam Biro, 2002), p 25. An echo of 
Malevich's conflicts with Kandmsky is 
found also in a letter from Malevich to 
David Shterenberg, February 16, 1921 
"Kandmsky and company had locked my 
sguare in the Shisselburg Fortress" (M. P. 


Lazarev, David Shterenberg: khudozhmk i 
vremia: put khudozhnika [Moscow 
Galaktika, 1992], p 158) 

6 The history of the conflict between 
Malevich and Shterenberg is discussed in 
Lazarev, David Shterenberg (see n 5) 

7. This statement, which is not typical of 
Lissitzky. suggests the strong, almost 
hypnotic influence Malevich had on him 
at this time 

8. Malevich, letter to Nikolai Punin, 
October 2, 1920, in Pisma Kazimiru 
Malevichu, El Lissitskomu. i Nikolaiu 
Puninu s 10-kh godov, p. 30 

9 Quoted in Vasilii Rakitin, Der biblische 
Anarchist Kasimir Malewitsch kommen- 
tiert seine Predigt "Von den neuen 
Systemen in der Kunst": Malewitsch, 
Suetin, Tshchaschnik, exh. cat. (Cologne: 
Galene Gmurzynska, 1992), p 249 

10 Suprematism: Study for a Curtain, 
1919 Paper, gouache, watercolor, and 
pencil. 45 x 62 5 cm State Tretiakov 
Gallery. Moscow. 

1 1 Ivan Gavns, Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo 

g Vitebshchyna Neperiodicheskii sbornik 
Vitebskogo okruzhnogo tovarishchestva 
kraevedeniia (Vitebsk, 1928), pp 169. 

12. See Vasiln Rakitin, Nikolai 
Mikhailovich Suetin (Moscow: RA. 1998) 
and Ilia Chashnik: Khudozhnik novogo 
vremeni (Moscow: RA, 2000) 

13 RGALI, Moscow, f 680, op 1, 
no 845. p. 353 

14 Malevich, letter to Mikhail 
Gershenzon, April 1 1, 1920. in Kazimir 
Malevich Sobranie sochinenii v piati 
tomakh, vol 3 (Moscow. Gileia, 2000). 
p 34 

15 Program for Unovis Studios, Vitebsk, 
manuscript and typescript (1919-21), 
private archive, St Petersburg, p 1 The 
program was created collectively and 
then written down and developed by 
Vera Ermolaeva 

16. 10-aja Gos. Vystavka. Bespredmetnoe 
tvorcesto i Suprematizm {Tenth State 
Exhibition Nonobjective Creativity and 
Suprematism), Moscow, 1919 

17 Program for Unovis Studios, p 3. 

18 Malevich, letter to Lissitzky. 
December 8, 1924. in Pisma Kazimiru 
Malevichu, El Lissitskomu, i Nikolaiu 
Puninu s W-kh godov. p 13 

19 Program for Unovis Studios, p 7 

20 Ibid , p 1 1 

21 Nina Kogan, "For the Unovis 
Exhibition," typescript ( 1922), private 

22. El Lissitzky, "Stantestroiteliami," 
typescript draft (1920), private archive, 
p. 1 This text was included in Almanakh 
Unovis No. 1, Manuscript Division. State 
Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, f. 76, no 9 

23 Lissitzky. "Proun," typescript of a 
lecture delivered at Inkhuk, 
September 23, 1921, private archive, p. 4. 

24 Ivan Puni. Sovremennaia zhivopis 
(Berlin, 1923), p. 11. 

25. Malevich, draft for "A Letter to the 
Dutch Artists" (September 7, 1921), The 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev- 
Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

26 The Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Stedelijk Museum, 

27 Malevich, letter to Lissitzky, 

June 17, 1924, Experiment, vol. 5 (1999), 
p. 153. 

28 Malevich, letter to David 
Shterenberg, December 1 1. 1920, in 
Lazarev, David Shterenberg, p. 158 

29 Lissitzky, letter to Malevich, 
January 10. 1921, in V kruge malevicha. 
Soratniki. Ucheniki. Posledovateli v Rossii 
1920- 1950-kh godov 

30 Malevich, undated letter, private 
archive, Moscow. 

31 See "Bulletin of the Executive 
Committee of Moscow State Art 
Workshops," no 1 (October 3, 1920), 

in the Documents section of this publica- 

32. Gustav Klutsis, letter to V Kulagma, 
January 6, 1921, private archive, Moscow 

33 See A. V Lunacharsky, "Russian 
Artists in Berlin," Ogonek, no. 30 
(1927); in the Documents section of 
this publication. 

34 There are two versions of this paint- 
ing This particular version, now in a 
private collection, is the one included in 
the current exhibition and is reproduced 
on page 126 of this publication 

35 Shterenberg, letter to Malevich, in 
Lazarev, David Shterenberg, pp 158, 160. 

36 The idea for a magazine was 
supported first of all by G Zinoviev, who 
determined in great part Comintern's 
political line. During Georg Grosz's visit 
to Soviet Russia, he spoke of the desir- 
ability of publishing a progressive art 
magazine with the Comintern's editorial 
staff in Berlin or Pans; Grosz, Ein kleines 
la und grosses Nein (Hamburg, 1955), 

p. 170 

37 Lissitzky, letter to an unidentified 
recipient, March 1922, private archive In 
this letter, Lissitzky discusses the idea of 
doing a special Russian edition of Veshch, 
an idea that was never realized For a 
historical analysis of Veshch, see Yu 
Molok, "Veshch kak veshch. ill polemika 
na iazyke grafiki," Pinakoteka, special 
issue dedicated to Russian-German art 
ties, no 3-4 (1999). 

38 Program for Unovis Studios 

39 Adolph Benet, Techenua v sovremen- 
non germanskom iskusstve, (Moscow 
and Leningrad, 1924), pp 13, 15 

40 8oth Mayakovsky and Brik attended 
the Erste russische Kunstausstellung, 
Galene van Diemen, Berlin. In his article 
"Vystavka izobrazitelnogo iskusstva SSSR 
v Berline." Krasnaia niva, January 19, 
1923, Mayakovsky wrote that "you 
cannot judge what is going on in the 
RSFSR from such an exhibition Our 
greatest power is not in paintings " Brik 
wrote a small article about his visit to the 
Bauhaus, "Dom stroitelstva." Ogonek. 
no 48(1923). 

41 Malevich, typescript, n.d . private 
archive Similar theoretical conclusions 
were made at Ginkhuk regarding other 
movements in Modern art 

42 Lissitzky, "A [rt] and Pangeometry, " 
in Lissitzky-Kuppers, El Lissitzky Life, 
Letters, Texts, pp 348-54 


State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 









Most of Kazimir Malevich's architektons and architectonic models 
have not survived. For this reason, the recovery of an architekton 
previously known only through photographs is a remarkable event. 
This is all the more true of Suprematist Architectural Model (1927; 
page 209), as it appears to be the only surviving architekton col- 
umn, a form emblematic of Malevich's late architectural work. 

Malevich's theoretical and practical work in three-dimensional 
Suprematism began in the late 1910s and early 1920s, when he 
abandoned painting in favor of research in architecture and teach- 
ing. Malevich announced, and provided the theoretical basis for, 
the beginning of a new architectural juncture in the development 
of Suprematism in his booklet Suprematizm: 34 risunka 
{Suprematism: 34 Drawings, 1920), in which he declared that "in 
Suprematism, painting is out of the question; painting has 
become obsolete, and the painter himself is a preconceived notion 
of the past." 1 In his White on White works of 1917-18, painting 
reached its limits; a different spatial form opened up, and 
Suprematism, in search of an ultimate nonobjectivity, entered the 
sphere of architecture. 

In the 1920s, Malevich's interpretation of Suprematism as one of 
the systems of European architecture gradually changed. He 


began to regard it as a scientific method containing the 
"form-creating" potential for the establishment of a 
universal plastic language: "Suprematism is only a new 
method of knowledge, the content of which will be differ- 
ent sensations," he wrote to Konstantin Rozhdestvensky in 
1927; as a "Weltanschauung and 'world-construction,'" 
Suprematism would become the basis of a general style for 
the age, while the Suprematist element that transmitted 
"the sensation of art" on the plane of the canvas would 
become an architectural element and formula for a new 
architectural system. 2 In his theoretical works of the 
1920s, Malevich accentuated the organic link between 
Suprematist architecture and art: "Contemporary New Art 
and the sensation of the painterly pointed to the form of 
the new architecture." 3 Rozhdestvensky, in developing his 
teacher's theory, emphasized that the spatial "cosmic" 
sensation was the most important aspect of Suprematist 
architecture and painting: 

In the spiritual sense, Suprematist painting and Suprematist archi- 
tecture are the same. Sometimes the birth of Suprematist 
architecture is linked to the attempts to transfer painterly 
Suprematism to axonometry — but that is how prouns were born. 

But prouns are not Suprematist architecture. Not at all! 

Prouns lack what is most important in Suprematism: space 
filled with the dynamic energy of the life of the cosmos. They only 
contain Suprematist-like elements-but they are material and 
heavy; they can be fashioned out of plywood, painted, and 
mounted on a wall, but they do not radiate spatial energy. Prouns 
lack the Suprematist disposition. 4 

Malevich's Suprematist architecture is nonfunctional by 
design and is independent of any social or economic struc- 
tures. Architektons transmit a purely plastic sensation and 
are, in the clever definition of Ernst Kallai, "camouflaged 

Suprematist paintings." 5 Malevich, however, recognized 
the use of Suprematism in decorating the "space of life" 
(porcelain, textiles, interior design, monuments, and so on). 
In 1929, at his solo exhibition at the State Tretiakov Gallery, 
Moscow, he patiently, and without any sense of irony, 
explained to the gallery workers that "an architekton is 
only a composition of stereometric figures. It is a thing of 
no use. But he has no objection if it is used to decorate a 
room, or placed in the middle of a square, suitably 
enlarged. It can serve as a base for a statue or a monu- 
ment; and if a bird does its business on top of it, he also 
doesn't mind." 6 

In the 1920s, Malevich regarded architecture as equiva- 
lent to Modern art, as he believed that the goal of 
Suprematist architecture-architecture in the grand 
style-was to re-create the world in accordance with the 
laws of the new art. He dreamed of a global Suprematist 
environment in which everything would be subordinate to 
the Suprematist canon: "All things, our entire world, must 
be arrayed in Suprematist forms: i.e., fabrics, wallpaper, 
pots, plates, furniture, shop signs; in short, everything must 
have Suprematist designs as a new form of harmony." 7 

Malevich's early work in three-dimensional 
Suprematism began at the Vitebsk Popular Art School, but 
the first architektons date from his time at Ginkhuk (State 
Institute of Artistic Culture), Leningrad, where, in 1 923, 
"the first three-dimensional [objects] were realized." 8 
Architectural Suprematism became paramount at Ginkhuk, 
where Malevich worked on this project with his students, 
including Nikolai Suetin, Ilia Chashnik, and Lazar Khidekel. 
In the fall of 1925, a laboratory of Suprematist architec- 
ture, known as the laboratory of the "Suprematist Order" 
and headed by Suetin, was created at Ginkhuk. The 


Suprematists concerned themselves with "architecture as 
an artistic form" and the revelation of the absolute laws of 
its construction, as opposed to the utilitarian architectural 
conception of the Constructivists. Malevich's architectural 
designs and architektons were first presented at an exhibi- 
tion at Ginkhuk in May 1924 and at the International 
Exhibition of Modern Architecture in Warsaw in 
February-March 1926. 

In 1923 and 1924, Malevich searched for the laws 
governing the Suprematist three-dimensional "form- 
creation" while simultaneously working with three- 
dimensional models and planes. His planits — axonometric 
drawings floating in the space of three-dimensional 
Suprematist models that resemble horizontal architek- 
tons — did not precede the first architektons, but were 
contemporaneous to them. Their titles, such as Future 
Planits for Earthlings, point to the timeless, "cosmic" char- 
acter of Malevich's architectural conception. The 
contrasting "energy of the black and the white" is 
conveyed in them by the juxtaposition of densely shaded 
and uncolored light planes. In the architekton, the role of 
color is reduced to the symbolic square, cross, or circle 
applied to its planes; in this case, the whiteness of the plas- 
ter is like the white background of a Suprematist painting, 
which corresponds, more than anything else, to the 
nonobjective character of the architektons. 

After the closing of Ginkhuk, Malevich continued his 
architectural activities at Gill (State Institute of Art History) 
in Leningrad, where his former students Suetin, Chashnik, 
Khidekel, V. Vorobiev, and the architect Aleksandr Nikolsky 
now taught and where the issue of the "color-decoration 
of new architectural constructions, residential areas, 
and squares" — in particular, "three- dimensional spatial 

ornamentation" — was being addressed. 9 In 1932 and 
1933, the last years of his life, Malevich worked on 
architektons in the experimental laboratory of the State 
Russian Museum, Leningrad. 

Malevich's early architektons were mostly horizontal, 
transmitting a sense of stasis or dynamism and the diffu- 
sion or concentration of weight. In the second half of the 
1920s, new tendencies appeared. As he became fascinated 
with the prospect of a "rebirth of the classical spirit" — 
"I see the beginning of a new classical architecture," he 
wrote of Suprematist architecture in 1927'° — he began to 
move toward new principles of building architektons. 
Vertical forms became predominant, leading to the 
architekton column, which had monument motifs and 
more ornamentation. It was a distinct point of departure. 
In Malevich's conception, the column carried within itself a 
programmatic meaning closely linked to the creation of the 
"Suprematist Order." 

Suprematist Architectural Model dates from this period. 
It has a heavy quadrangular base, which contrasts sharply 

Slate Russian Museum. St Petersburg 


with its light and fragile column. The latter is made up of 
many narrow, elongated shapes placed on the basic struc- 
ture to form thin, asymmetrical profiles. By fragmenting 
the single plaster mass, they visually deprive the material of 
weight and density. The shift in the coupling of small verti- 
cal elements in the upper part, which creates a rhythmic 
pause, seems to delineate a capital. The work first 
appeared at the Tretiakov Gallery in 1928, after the artist 
gave it to the museum. Two years later, the museum 
acquired another architekton by Malevich, Planit 
(1 925-26). 11 In 1965, both works were transferred to 
Arkhiv proizvedenii iskusstva (Archive of Works of Art) in 
Zagorsk. It was thought for a long time that the architek- 
tons had been lost, but Suprematist Architectural Model 
was returned to the Tretiakov Gallery in 1993. 

A phased reconstruction of Suprematist Architectural 
Model was begun several years ago,' 3 based on a photo- 
graph of an architekton printed from an old glass negative 
from the Tretiakov Gallery archives 14 as well as other 
archival materials. In 2002, the Moscow architect Yuri 
Awakumov completed the design for the reconstruction 
and a three-dimensional model of the work. The architek- 
ton was then dismantled. It consists of three plaster prisms 
(30.5 x 7 x 7 cm; 29.5 x 7 x 7 cm; and 16.5 x 9 x 9 cm) 
and seventy-nine small fragments (twenty-one of them 
3-5 cm in size; the remainder less than 3 cm). The total 
height of the three large parts is 76.5 cm, and the lost base 
(judging from the photograph) was 10 cm high or some- 
what less; thus the total height of the architekton is about 
86.5 cm, making it the tallest of the vertical architektons 
that have been reconstructed. 15 

Suprematist Architectural Model is mentioned in the 
catalogue to Vystavka priobreteniy Gosvdarstvennoi 

Komissii po priobreteniyam proizvedeniy izobrazitelnogo 
iskusstva za 1927-1928 (Exhibition of Acquisitions of 
Works by Persons Working in the Fine Arts in 1927-1928), 
which took place at the Tretiakov Gallery in 
November-December 1928. The entry in the catalogue 
reads as follows: "No. 384. 'Suprematist Architekton.' 
Plaster. 86 x 30 x 30. Acquired in 1927-1928." The 
architekton had been brought from Malevich's studio to 
Moscow as early as the summer of 1928, a few months 
before the start of the exhibition, as can be seen from a 
July 1 928 list of works in the exhibition room of Vkhutein 
(Higher Artistic-Technical Institute): "No. 48, Malevich, K. 
S., 'Suprematist Architekton,' plaster. Inventory no. 155. 
Dismantled, in two boxes."' 6 According to records, the 
architekton was bought for 600 rubles in December 1928 
and allocated to the Tretiakov Gallery. 17 

The architekton received its present name after its 
arrival at the Tretiakov Gallery. 18 In the purchasing commis- 
sion's documents, it is referred to as "Suprematist 
Architekton," with the further explanation "architectural 
model" or "architectural maquette." In the museum's 
inventory book, it is also referred to by this name, and next 
to the entry is a note in pencil: "the sculpture is disassem- 
bled." The Tretiakov Gallery never exhibited the architekton, 
not even at a solo exhibition of Malevich's work that 
opened in November 1929, at which four large and 
twenty-two small architektons brought from Leningrad 
were exhibited. The explanation for this can be found in a 
"report on the discovery of inadequacy in storage" at the 
Tretiakov Gallery, dated October 8, 1929, 18 which describes 
the damage sustained by the architekton shortly before the 
start of the exhibition: "Pieces of the plaster parts of K. S. 
Malevich's architekton have been broken off — they are on 


the floor next to the base of the architekton. The damage 
occurred when the pedestal was moved during electrical 
wiring."' 9 From this description, it can be inferred that the 
architekton had been assembled, probably for the exhibi- 
tion, when it was damaged. There is no information as to 
whether it was repaired after the damage occurred. 

In 1932, Malevich was able to mount a large-scale 
exhibition of his architektons as part of Khudozhniki RSFSR 
za 15 let (Artists of the RSFSR over the Past Fifteen Years) 
at the State Russian Museum. Malevich's installation, which 
was presented in its own hall, was not only a summation 
of his work on architektons, but it also heralded a new 
architectural conception. The architectural part of the exhi- 
bition was dominated by majestic vertical architektons: 
architekton columns and stepped structures swept upward, 
each crowned by a human figure. The enormous impor- 
tance accorded by Malevich to the theme of the 
monument during those years was also reflected in the 
names of the works: Column of the Monument of the 
Land of the Soviets, Themes of Architectural Monuments 
a, b, c, e, and so on. These late architektons differed from 
the earlier works in their spatial correlation and propor- 
tions. The vertical architektons became higher and lighter, 
as if turning toward space. Their drawn-out forms, high 
above the horizon, gravitate toward the column. It is as 
though the architektons had drawn space into their very 
structure. In place of the large static planes and heavy 
three-dimensional forms of earlier architektons, there was 
now a completely different plastic image, which evoked 
classical associations. Indeed, the exhibition reflected 
Malevich's desire to create a modern classicism. The multi- 
planed spatial construction of the architekton, the strict 
correlation of complex geometrical forms (with one 

another and with the whole), the altered rhythm of hori- 
zontal and vertical, and the general movement toward 
weightlessness were the hallmarks of a new stage of 
Suprematist architecture, freed, in Malevich's conception, 
from the force of gravity and the pressure of weight. The 
architektons lost their autonomy, submitting to the rule of 
the ensemble. They formed, at the exhibition, a single 
Suprematist architectural milieu, representing an ideal city 
that also included painting in its space. 

S. I. Soloveichik, Ivan Kliun's daughter, recalls Malevich's 
view of his late works: "In 1932, Malevich showed me the 
maquettes of his architektons and said that the previous 
ones . . . were unsuccessful and that it was important to 
strive upward toward space. However, he didn't consider 
his new architektons to be perfect; in his view, they were 
only attempts to find the one and only correct solution and 
they lacked lightness and were too unwieldy." 20 

Suprematist Architectural Model would not have been 
out of place at the Russian Museum exhibition, as its plas- 
tic qualities anticipated, to a certain extent, Malevich's 
future work. In fact, Malevich had intended to include it in 

State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 


the exhibition: archival materials show that it appeared in 
the show's original list of works. Minutes from a July 1 930 
meeting of the Jury for Sculpture at the Tretiakov Gallery 
note, "The question of exhibiting [Suprematist 
Architectural Model] is to be decided by a special commis- 
sion." 21 Evidently, this commission decided to exhibit the 
piece, as it is included in a list of sculptures from the 
Tretiakov Gallery accepted for the exhibition by the selec- 
tion committee in September or November 1930, as "No. 
23 'Suprematist Architectonic' 1927." 22 Unfortunately, the 
architekton did not become part of the exhibition; along 
with some other works, it was removed from the list and 
was left in Moscow. 

There is very little information on what happened to 
Malevich's architektons in the Tretiakov Gallery's collection 
from the 1930s to the 1960s. Practically the only source of 
information regarding the presence of the works in the 
collection are the museum's inventory lists from the 1930s 
through the 1950s. Various ledgers also contain entries 
made after inventories: in the registration book, next to 
"Suprematist Architectural Model," there is a stamp 
that reads "Department of Soviet Art. Checked on 
September 21,1 934, " and in the inventory ledger, next 
to "Suprematist Architectural Model," is the note, 
"Checked 1952." 

The 1 950s and 1 960s were difficult years for the 
Tretiakov Gallery's avant-garde collection. In the late 1940s, 
the works of many artists, including Malevich, were 
excluded from the museum's catalogue of Soviet art. 
Among the works excluded were "5636/26 Architekton" 
and "Inv. 1 1997 Suprematist Architekton." 23 Paintings 
were also excluded from the catalogue, among them 
Malevich's Girl with a Red Staff (Sketch for a Portrait [Girl 

with a Comb in Her Hair], 1 932-33), Doctor Mabuzo 
(1922-27), a movie poster, and Black Square (1915). The 
titles of works not listed in the catalogue of the museum's 
principal collection were entered into a special inventory 
book, which consisted of three sections: "Paintings, draw- 
ings, sculptures of low artistic merit," "Decorative arts," 
and "Formalist works." It was noted that "the archiving of 
works from this roster would not pose the same difficulties 
as the archiving of works from the main collection." 24 Boris 
Vladimirovich loganson, who became the museum's direc- 
tor in May 1951, took an active part in broadening this 
activity by heading the Commission on the Selection of 
Works of No Exhibitional or Artistic Merit. The commission 
determined that works deemed "of no exhibitional or artis- 
tic merit" would be stored in the Central Archive of the 
Committee on Matters Pertaining to the Arts in Zagorsk or 
in nonspecialized provincial museums, among other 
places. 26 This statement laid the foundation for the archiv- 
ing of many of the Tretiakov Gallery's works, including 
Malevich's architektons. 

In the early 1 950s, all of the museum's works were 
divided into four categories, depending on their perceived 
importance, with those deemed the least important by the 
commission placed in the fourth category. 27 All of 
Malevich's works were placed in the third and fourth cate- 
gories, with the exception of his painting Spring: Garden in 
Bloom (1904), which was included in the second category. 
It is enough to name a few of the twentieth-century paint- 
ings relegated to the fourth category to convey their real 
importance: Mikhail Larionov's Soldier Resting (1911) and 
Waitress (n.d.); Natalia Goncharova's Washing Linen (1910) 
and Peacock (n.d.); Vasily Kandinsky's Composition No. 7 
(1913); Vladimir Tatlin's A/ude (191 3) and Board No. 1 


(n.d.); Marc Chagall's Above the City (191 7-18); and paint- 
ings by Viktor Bonsov-Musatov, Anstarkh Lentulov, Liubov 
Popova, Olga Rozanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova. There 
were also four paintings by Malevich: Through Station. 
Kuntsevo (ca. 1913), Dynamic Suprematism (1916), 
Architekton (n.d.), 28 and Woman with a Rake (1928-32). 
The list of Soviet paintings in this category coincides with 
those in a contemporary exhibition of paintings from the 
1 920s and 1 930s at the Tretiakov Gallery: Petr Viliams's 
Installation of the Workshop (n.d.) and Female Acrobat 
(n.d); Aleksandr Deneika's Ballgame (1932) and Before 
Lowering into the Mine (1925); Pavel Kuznetsov's Pushbol 
(n.d.); Yurn Pimenov's, Give to Heavy Industry (1927); 
Aleksandr Samokhvalov's Girl with the Kernel (n.d.); 
Aleksandr Tyshler's Dance with a Red Veil (n.d); Pavel 
Filonov's Faces (1919); a "theatrical panel" (n.d.) by 
Chagall; and David Shterenberg's Still Life with Herring 
(1918), among others. Three works by Malevich were also 
included in this section: Black Square (1929), Girl with the 
Red Staff, and Doctor Mabuzo. 

The list of works in the third category is also astound- 
ing: Kuznetsov's Blue Fountain (n.d.); Larionov's Morning in 
the Barracks (n.d.); Kandinsky's White Oval (1919); 
Chagall's The Wedding (1918); Deneika's New Workshop 
Building Sites (n.d.); Konstantin Istomin's Vuzovki College 
Girls (n.d.); Petr Konchalovsky's The Violinist (n.d.); Kuzma 
Petrov-Vodkin's At the Samovar (n.d.); Robert Falk's 
Beautiful Furniture (n.d.); Shterenberg's Aniska (n.d), and 
many other works without which it is impossible to imag- 
ine the museum's collection. Four of Malevich's paintings 
fell into this category: Black Square (1915), Haymaking 
(1928-29), Sisters (1910), and Dressing Table Box (n.d). 
The list of Soviet sculpture in this category consisted of 

eighty-five entries; entry no. 40 (inv. no. 1 1997) was 
Malevich's "Architekton." 29 

In 1953, the Tretiakov Gallery submitted all of the 
requisite documentation to the Committee on the Arts and 
began an extensive correspondence with Glavistusstvo 
(Chief Administration Authority for Visual Arts) regarding 
the archiving of works. 30 Many of the works to be archived 
were in the third and fourth categories. Fortunately, the 
Zagorsk archive was unable to accept a large number of 
works; the process became drawn out, and there was 
some hope that it would drown in paperwork. However, in 
1 954 the archive agreed to accept a limited number of 
paintings and drawings. The museum was notified that "at 
the present time, it is possible to transfer to the Archive of 
Works of Art up to 100 paintings no larger than one 
meter, no more than three rolled-up canvases of large 
paintings, and no more than 1,000 drawings." 3 ' 

The transfers to Zagorsk began only in 1957. The order 
in which paintings were transferred was most likely 
decided by the staff of the Tretiakov Gallery. Thanks to 
them, the transfer did not begin with first-class works and 
thus was less devastating than it could have been. The 
museum's collection of avant-garde paintings was practi- 
cally unaffected, but there were still very serious losses, 
especially in 1964 and 1965. 32 An order by the Ministry of 
Culture on April 9, 1965 granted the Tretiakov Gallery 
authorization to transfer 2,632 works to the Zagorsk 
archive, including both of Malevich's architektons. 33 In the 
transfer papers — the last mention of the architektons in 
the museum's documents — the works are cited as follows: 
"'Suprematist Architectural Model' plaster 1 1997" and 
"'Planit' plaster 5464 KrTG." 34 Next to the word "Planit" 
is a question mark. The archiving of the practically 




State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 

nonexistent Planit was at best a formality. Suprematist 
Architectural Model was practically in ruins when it was 
returned to the Tretiakov Gallery in 1993, after almost 
thirty years. Hopefully, after it has been restored and 
rebuilt, it will become part of the museum's twentieth- 
century art collection. 

On the reverse side of one of the old photographs of 
an architekton belonging to the Tretiakov Gallery, there is a 
note written by Malevich: "Suprematist column vertical 
Suprematism. A monument to the new nonobjective art. 
K. Malevich 1927." 35 It was this architekton that he 
intended to be his tombstone. The monument to the new 
art was to become Malevich's monument. "When I die," 
he wrote to his friend Kliun, "all the artists of the world, 
and those who know me, must bury me in Barvikha . . . 
and put on my grave a tower in the form of that column 
that is in the Tretiakovka . . . with a turret, inside of which 
a telescope will be placed to watch Jupiter." 36 

Translated from the Russian by Daniel Rishik. 


1 . Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenu 
v piati tomakh. vol. 1 (Moscow Gileia, 
1995), p. 189. 

2. Malevich, letter to Konstantin 
Rozhdestvensky, Berlin, April 21, 1927, in 
Vasiln Rakitin, Konstantin Rozdeswjenski: 
Unter dem Zeichen des Roten Quadrats. 
exh. cat. (Cologne Galerie Gmurzynska, 
1993), p. 30. 

3 Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenu 
v piati tomakh, vol. 2 (Moscow Gileia. 
1998), p. 122 

4 Rozhdestvensky, "O suprematisme," in 
Rakitin, Konstantin Rozdeswjenski, p. 30. 

5. Ernst Kallai, "Kazimir Malevich," 
Kunstblatt, no 7(1927), 

6 Quoted in L. V Rozental, 

" Neprimechatelnyie dostovernosti, " 
Minuvshee23 (1998), p. 96 

7 Quoted in M. Kumn, "Ob Unovise, " 
Iskusstvo, nos. 2-3 (1921). 

8 See Kazimir Malevich Sobranie sochi- 
nenu v piati tomakh, vol I, p 309 This 
date is confirmed in Rozhdestvensky's 
memoirs: he notes that when he joined 
Malevich's department in the fall of 
1923, work on architektons was already 
in full swing. 

9 Vasilii Rakitin, Nikolai Mikhailovich 
Suetin (Moscow: RA, 1998) 

1 0. Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenu 
v piati tomakh, vol 2, p. 127 

1 1 . Planit came to the museum in 1 930, 
following Vystavka proizvedenu tsentral- 
noi gosvdarstvennoi komissii po 
pnobredteniyam proizvedenii isobrazitel- 
nikh iskusstv (Exhibition of Works of the 
Central State Commission for the 
Procurement of Works in the Fine Arts, 

1 928-29). Planit is no 5 125 in the exhi- 
bition's catalogue: "'Architekton. 
Planit-monument motif ' Painted plaster. 
Workshop ('4 iskusstva) Acquisition 
1929-1930 " Both the Tretiakov Gallery 
and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine 
Arts, Moscow, wanted to acquire the 
work At the meeting of the State 
Commission for the Acquisition of Works 
Produced by Persons Working in the Fine 
Arts, this matter was decided in favor of 
the Tretiakov Gallery RGALI (Russian 


State Archive of Literature and Art. f 
645, op 1,ed khr 485. 1. 70) 
Unfortunately, no photographs of this 
architekton have survived In the 
museum's documents, there is an entry 
on the condition of Planit, dated 
November 27, 1950: "damaged, only 
separate fragments remain" (OR GTG 
[Tretiakov Gallery Archive], f. 8/IV, ed. khr. 
460, I. 19). That is, by this time, the work 
practically did not exist. 

12. Kazimir Malevich: Sobranie sochinenii 
vpiati tomakh, vol 2, p. 124. 

13 The students of the Moscow 
Architectural Institute (under the direc- 
tion of E B Ovsiannikova) created 
preliminary computerized versions of the 
reconstruction as well as several paper 
maquettes on the basis of drawings and 
photographs. N. I Rozenvasser of the 
Tretiakov Gallery's sculpture department 
and a restorer, L. V. Levko, took measure- 
ments of the architekton and made 
drawings and paper tracings of the frag- 
ments; they revealed Malevich's marks 
and traces of attachments of the parts 
Precise photographs were taken 

14. This photograph is reproduced in 
S 0. Khan-Magomedov, Pioniereder 
sowjetischen Arkhitektur (Vienna: Locker, 
1983), fig. 48 ("K. S. Malevich, 'Vertical 
Arkhitekton,' ser. 1920s"); and in 
Malevich: Khudozhnik i teoretik (Malevich: 
Artist and Theoretician, Moscow: Izd-vo 
"Sovietskii khudozhnik," 1990), ill. 138 
("K S. Malevich, 'Arkhitekton,' 1926(7). 
Lost ."). In S O Khan-Magomedov's book 
Pionery sovetskogo disaina (Moscow: 
Galart. 1995), strp 56, the architekton is 
mistakenly attributed to Suetm ("N. M. 
Suetin, 'Vertical Arkhitekton,' 1927") 

1 5 The height of the architekton Gofa 
(1923 [1989]), reconstructed at the 
Musee national d'art moderne, Paris, 

is 85 2 cm. See Malevitch: Architectones, 
peintures, dessins Collections du Musee 
national d'art moderne, exh cat (Pans 
CGPMNAM, 1980), p 64 

16 Inventory of paintings, sculptures, 
and drawings in Vkhutein's exhibition 
room, July 7. 1928, RGALI. f. 645, op 1, 
ed. khr 482. 1, 95. 

1 7 Minutes of the Commission for 
the Acquisition of Works Produced by 
Persons Working in the Fine Arts, 
December 21, 1928, RGALI, f 645, 
op. 1, ed. khr 482, I 164 (ob). List of 
acquired works produced by persons 
working in the fine arts in 1928-29. 
RGALI, f 645. op Led khr 482. 
I. 83-85 List of works transferred by 
Glaviskusstvo to the Tretiakov Gallery, 
RGALI, f 645, op. 1, ed. khr. 482, I. 79. 

18. Entry in the Tretiakov Gallery's regis- 
tration book. The height indicated there, 
86.5 cm, differs by half a centimeter 
from that given in the catalogue entry. 

19. OR GTG, f. 8/IV, ed. khr. 54, I. 20. 

20 S I. Soloveichik (Kliunkova), 
"Malevich Kazimir Severinovich," 
OR GTG, f. 178, ed. khr 11, I 11 

21 . Minutes no. 1 of the meeting of 
the Jury for Sculpture in the Tretiakov 
Gallery, July 25, 1930, RGALI. f. 643, 
op l.ed. khr. 8, I. 50. 

22. List of works of art accepted by 
the selection commission from artists, 
museums, and institutions to be shown 
at the exhibition, RGALI, f . 643, op 1 , 
ed. khr. 11, I. 142. 

23 List of works not included in the 
catalogue of Soviet art, State Tretiakov 
Gallery, OR GTG, f. 8/IV, ed. khr 87, 

I. 11 (ob) 

24 Orders, minutes, documents, and 
certificates on inventory taking and 
accounting of museum valuables, 
1949-53. OR GTG, f. 8/IV, ed. khr 386. 
I 12. 

25 Order no. 90. May 5, 1950, OR GTG, 

f 8/IV, ed khr. 386,1 14 

26. Minutes of the Commission on the 
Selection of Works of No Exhibitional 
or Artistic Value. 1951-52, OR GTG, 

f. 8/1-IV, ed. khr. 392. 

27. List of works from the State Tretiakov 
Gallery collection (first through fourth 
categories), OR GTG, f. 8/IV, ed. khr. 

28. The second Dynamic Suprematism 
was listed as "Arkhitekton (x., m 80 x 
80lnv. 11967)." 

29 List of works from the State 
Tretiakov Gallery collection (third cate- 
gory), OR GTG, f. 8/IV, ed khr 91, 1 45. 

30. Correspondence with Glaviskusstvo 
on the archiving of exhibits without any 
exhibitional or artistic value. 

31.0 Esipova (head of the Zagorsk 
Archive of Works of Art), letter to P I. 
Lebedev (director of the State Tretiakov 
Gallery), October 28, 1954, OR GTG, 
f. 8/IV, ed khr. 393,1. 15. 

32 Some of the museum's archived 
works were transferred from Zagorsk to 
other museums. For example, Aristarkh 
Vasilievich Lentulov's Port Tuapse (n.d.) 
went by to the Abramtsevo Museum, N. 
V Kashin's Trial in Samarkand {n.d.) 
went to the Nukuss Museum; and 
Aleksei Alekseevich Morgunov's 
Demonstration (n.d), Portrait of a Man 

In the Butcher Shop (n.d.), and 
other works went to the GRM 
(Gosudarstvennyi ruskii muzei] Several 
paintings were returned to the Tretiakov 
Gallery in the 1980s, including Roman 
Matveyevich Semashkevich's Avto (n.d.), 
G. N. Rublev's Seamstresses (n.d), and 
G.N. Trauberg's Rally in the Lane (n.d). 

33. Order of the Ministry of Culture 
of the USSR No 141 1-3/36, April 9. 
1965, OR GTG, f 8/IV, ed khr 234, 
I 178. 

34. Document no. 5 regarding the 
transfer of exhibits from the Tretiakov 
Gallery, June 5, 1965, OR GTG, f. 8/IV, 
ed khr 234. The architektons appear in 
the list of decorative and applied art 
being transferred, along with various 
other exhibits, such a plate with an 
engraved portrait of Stalin, porphyry 
vases from the Hermitage, and a drill 
made of stainless steel (a gift from a 
machine-building plant). According to 
this document, 2,366 works were trans- 
ferred to the Zagorsk archive, consisting 
of 86 paintings, 2,265 drawings. 6 
sculptures, and 9 items of decorative 
and applied arts. 

35 The photograph is in the collection 
of the Foundation Khardzhiev- 
Chaga/Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam] 
I would like to thank Vasilii Rakitin for 
making this photograph available to me 

36. Malevich, letter to Ivan Khun. 
June 2. 1931, private archive. Moscow 
See the Documents section in this 



MAY 17-18, 1935 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 






It is popularly believed that the artistic leanings of the Russian 
avant-garde were based on revolutionary politics, but this is a mis- 
taken belief, for it fails to take into account that most avant-garde 
works were in fact created in the late 1900s and early 1910s — 
several years before the revolution of 1917. Although the Russian 
avant-garde movement was heavily influenced by Western art — 
Paul Cezanne and Post-Impressionism, Futurism, and Cubism in 
particular — it was also much influenced by its own national tradi- 
tions during this time. Religious art (church architecture, icons, 
frescoes) and traditional crafts (wood carving, ceramics, embroi- 
dery) enjoyed an unexpected revival in Russia in the early 1910s. 
Examples of religious and folk art were collected, studied, and 
exhibited alongside works of high art. The cosmic nature of Old 
Russian and folk art helped the masters of the avant-garde 
advance deeper into the realms of nonobjectivity, a process aided 
also by the religious beliefs typically held, in varying degrees, by 
the majority of Russian avant-garde artists. 

Malevich was no exception. In the middle of the first decade 
of the 1900s, he painted a series of compositions for a fresco, 
collectively titled Studies for a Fresco Painting, in which he 
represented the Gospel subjects of the Transfiguration, the 


Gethsemane Prayer, and the Resurrection in a Symbolist 
style. In one of these works, Self -Portrait, Malevich depicted 
himself as God. This "Messianic" approach to his role in 
society and art accompanied the artist all his life. Malevich 
viewed himself as a Messiah, called not only to save, but 
also to transform the world, and he regarded his theoretical 
writings as "new Gospels in art."' 

Suprematism largely expressed Malevich's personal 
interpretation of the Creation. While the term 
"Suprematism" derives from the Latin word supremus, 
Malevich understood the concept of "supremacy" in a far 
broader and more profound way. In 1916, as he was 
working to establish Suprematism among the other avant- 
garde movements, Malevich likened himself to Christ in a 
letter written to fellow avant-garde artist Mikhail 

Christ revealed Heaven on Earth, putting an end to space and 
establishing two extremes, two poles, no matter where they are — 
in oneself or "there." We shall not walk past a thousand poles, 
like we walked past billions of grains of sand on the river and sea 
shores. The space is more than the sky, stronger and mightier; our 
new book is the doctrine of the space of the wilderness. 2 

Here he introduced the concept of the Revelation to help 
explain his own theory of physical space as a cosmos, a 
theory that is manifested in his Suprematist compositions 
in which geometric forms appear on a light, "fathomless" 
background — in a space that is, in his opinion, "more 
than the sky." 3 

Reflecting on art in general in the late 1910s, Malevich 
published an essay entitled Bog ne skinut: Iskusstvo, 
Tserkov, Fabrika (God Is Not Cast Down: Art, Church, 
Factory). 4 The very title of the work and its terminology 
are permeated with religious pathos. (It is interesting to 

note that the artist was addressing the relationship 
between religion and society in the second half of the 
1910s, despite the de facto prohibition of religion and the 
church in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. In fact, 
Malevich's tenets confirming his own egocentric religious- 
ness in a cosmic context accompanied the artist's entire 
oeuvre from before 1917 right up until his death in 1935.) 

Malevich offered his own interpretation of the 
Creation in God Is Not Cast Down: 

God decided to build the world in order to free himself from it 
forever, in order to be free, and to assume the entire Nothing or 
eternal rest as a great thinking essence, for there was nothing 
else to think about — everything was perfect. He wanted to give 
the same to man on Earth. Man, however, was unable to endure 
the [social] system and transgressed it. Man left its captivity and 
the whole system collapsed, its weight falling on him. In other 
words, feeling the weight inside him, God turned the system into 
dust. The weight became light. He "unweighted" it, placing man 
in an unknown system. 5 

Malevich's "unknown system" is the world — the universe 
in which man lives — and Suprematism is the artistic 
expression of the existence of man in this universe. "The 
weight," designated by color and form and dispersed 
throughout the universe, is what constitutes the mono- 
chrome Suprematist canvas. 

Why did Malevich return so often to the black square 
throughout his career? Was it the urge to reproduce his 
original masterpiece, or did these repetitions manifest a 
particular idea? The artist's own writings show that his 
approach to the black square in 1920 differed cardinally 
from his stance in 1913, when his seminal canvas first 
appeared in a performance of the Futurist opera Pobeda 
nad solntsem {Victory Over the Sun) as part of the sets 


that launched Suprematism. The black square now 
acquired not just aesthetic significance, but spiritual signif- 
icance. In a 1920 letter to Mikhail Gershenzon, Malevich 
wrote: "This is the form of a new living organism. ... It is 
not painting; it is something else." He continued: "I had 
the idea that were humanity to draw an image of the 
Divinity after its own image, perhaps the black square is 
the image of God as the essence of His perfection on a 
new path for today's fresh beginning." 6 This may suggest 
why Malevich repeated the black square several times: its 
form and color appear to have best expressed the artist's 
understanding of the image of God in the relationship 
between man and the universe. 

Malevich was, in essence, creating a new type of icon. 
Unlike Russian Orthodox icon painters who illustrated 
biblical texts, however, Malevich excluded all narrative 
from his compositions. He minimalized the images, reduc- 
ing them to pure forms, and he monumentalized the 
squares, circles, and crosses employed by icon painters in 
the clothes of the saints, elevating them to the level of 
independent, multisignificant symbols. By placing a 
square, circle, or cross on a white or gray background, 
Malevich was returning to the canons of Old Russian art, 
reinterpreting them in his own original manner. In Russian 
icons, a white background traditionally symbolizes purity, 
sanctity, and eternity, while black represents the chasm, 
hell, and darkness. As in Victory Over the Sun, in which 
the characters battle against the Sun, the symbol of life, 
Malevich employed the Black Square to incarnate the 
perfection of the modern God. Implying more than just 
the movement of contemporary art beyond the bounds of 
"Nothing" or traditional figurative art, Malevich's oeuvre 
was reclaiming the icon for art, in a new, updated form. 

- «. «<■■■■ - 

■ ■ 



1927, pencil on paper. B • es (21 » 16 

Kupferstichkabinett. Offenihche Kunstsammlung Basel 







State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 

Judging by the thoughts expressed in God Is Not Cast 
Down, Malevich was engaged in a quest for a "new path 
for today's fresh beginning" (a phrase he used in his 
1920 letter to Gershenzon) and sought a universal artistic 
language that would express the new religion. By creat- 
ing black, red, and white squares, Malevich believed that 
he had found a way to incarnate the universe in new 
forms of art. He was convinced that these forms could 
help him to construct a new "architecture" — in other 
words, a new relationship between man and the world, 
a new religion. 

Malevich's writings and his ambitious attempt to 
create a new religion did not pass by his contemporaries 
unnoticed. Reviewing God Is Not Cast Down in 1 922, 
Boris Arvatov, an advocate of Constructivism, wrote: 

I have continuously pointed out that Suprematism is the most 
detrimental reaction under the banner of the revolution, i.e., a 
doubly harmful reaction. Left-wing art in the form of its truly 
revolutionary group (Constructivism) should not hesitate in snip- 
ping the cord still linking it to Suprematism. After Malevich's 
candid thrusts, even the doubters, even the short-sighted, will 
discern the black face of the old art behind the mask of the red 
square. 7 

The critic was right when he wrote that for Malevich in 
the 1920s, Suprematism had become a vehicle for the 
creation of a new religion. As the artist himself wrote in a 
letter dated April 11, 1920: 

For many years I was concerned with my movement in colors, 
leaving the religion of the spirit aside, and twenty-five years have 
passed, and now I have returned or rather I have entered into the 
religious World; I do not know why it happened so. / visit 
churches, look at the saints and the entire spiritual world in 
action, and now I see in myself, and perhaps in the world as a 
whole, that the time is coming for a change of religions* 


Reflecting on religion, Malevich came to the conclu- 
sion that the church and the factory — implying the 
organization of Socialist society, with its palaces and 
clubs — were extremely similar: 

The walls of both are decorated with countenances and portraits, 
also arranged according to merit or rank. Martyrs or heroes exist 
in both the former and the latter, their names are also listed as 
saints. There is no difference; on all sides, everything is identical, 
for the question is identical, the aim is identical, and the meaning 
is the quest for God. ' 

Malevich wrote these words in 1920. Shortly after, he virtu- 
ally abandoned painting, only returning to it in the late 
1920s after a trip to Germany. During this sabbatical from 
painting, the artist spent a lot of time reflecting on the fate 
of Suprematism. Writing from Germany to Konstantm 
Rozhdestvensky, Malevich stated: "Nonobjective art stands 
without windows and doors, like a pure sensation in which 
life, like a homeless tramp, desires to spend the night." 10 

When Malevich returned to Russia and once again 
took up painting, he chose to address subjects from 
"life," working particularly intensely on his Peasant Cycle. 
Many paintings from this period represent a form of 
Suprematism into which the artist has "breathed life." 
While their incorporeality and absence of weight suggest 
the Suprematism of the mid-1 910s, their allusions to 
subject matter derived from the necessity of opening 
"windows and doors," getting closer to life, and using 
color and form to incarnate a pure sensation of space, the 
universe, and man in the universe. Malevich's peasants of 
the late 1920s and early 1930s are irreal. They are 
"universal" people — the same people of the future 
(budetlyane) from Victory Over the Sun, only cleansed of 
the elements of buffoonery and the grotesque pervading 


VERLAG. 19. 

1927. pencil on paper. 8% x I0VS inches (20 6 x 26 7 cm) 
Kupferstichkabinett. Offentliche Kunslsamcnlung Basel 


Photograph by Nikolai Suetin 

Malevich's costume designs for the Futurist opera. In 
returning to figurative art, Malevich did not engage in self- 
mimicry, but rather sought new paths for Suprematism, 
realizing and accepting the changes taking place in life. 
Suprematism was transformed and perfected, reincar- 
nated in a new aesthetic, which was, for Malevich, a form 
of religion. The characters he created are solemn, majestic, 
and faceless — worthy of inclusion in an iconostasis of 
modern heroes and martyrs. The Peasant Cycle thus 
embodies the theme of a new religion and a new people 
led by God toward a new life. 

No one knows what Malevich's Socialist City project 
looked like. The artist is known to have donated his 
designs and writings on the subject to Glavnauka, the offi- 
cial body overseeing Soviet art and science, in 1932. 
Judging by several studies in the State Russian Museum in 
St. Petersburg, the artist intended to create something 
akin to an iconostasis depicting various representatives of 
the urban population. As in his Peasant Cycle, the artist 
may also have wanted to continue the concept of 
Suprematism in new forms. From the black square to this 
late project, Malevich thus employed the artistic ideology 
of the Orthodox Church to create a revolutionary new art 
in the twentieth century. 



1 Kazimir Malevich, Bog ne skinut 
Iskusstvo Tserkov Fabnka in Kazimir 
Malevich: Sobrante sochmenu v piati 
tomakh, vol I (Moscow: Gileia. 1995) 

2 Quoted in E F Kovtun, "Pismo 

K S Malevicha M V Matiushinu," in 
Ezhegodnik Rukopisnogo otdela 
Pushkmskogo doma na 1974 g 
(Leningrad: Nauka, 1976), pp 177-95. 

3 Malevich, flog ne skinut Iskusstvo 
Tserkov Fabnka 

4 Dated 1920 by Malevich, God Is Not 
Cast Down Art, Church, Factory was 
published in Vitebsk in 1922. The artist 
had clearly reflected on many of the 
essay's themes earlier than this, however, 
as is evident in Malevich's letters to 
Mikhail Gershenzon from 1918 to 1920. 
(The letters, now in the collection of the 
Khardzhiev-Chaga Foundation, Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam, appear in 
Aleksandra Shatskikh, comp., Chernyi 
kvadrat[S\ Petersburg: Azbuka, 2001] ) 

5 Malevich, Bog ne skinut. Iskusstvo 
Tserkov Fabnka. p 246 

6 Malevich, letter to Mikhail 
Gershenzon, March 20, 1920, in 
Shatskikh, comp., Chernyi kvadrat, 
pp 438-39 

7, Boris Arvatov, "Malevich. Bog ne 
skinut (Iskusstvo. Tserkov Fabnka)," 
Pecfraf i revoliuciia, no. 7 (1922), 
pp 343-44 

8 Malevich, letter to Gershenzon, April 
1 1. 1920. in Shatskikh, comp , Chernyi 
kvadrat, p 441 Italics added 

9 Malevich, Bog ne skinut Iskusstvo 
Tserkov Fabnka, p 248 

10 Malevich, letter to Konstantin 
Rozhdestvensky, May 7, 1927, in Kazimir 
Malevich in the Russian Museum 

(St Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2000), 
p 395 


f* c y~**k. 

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1913, pencil on paper, 8V5 x 10% inches (21.5 x 27.5 cm) 
St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music 
Inv No KP 5199/166 


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1913. pencil on pape> 

Foundation Cultural Center Khard?hiev-Chaga. Amsterdam/St* 

Museum. Amsterdam 

GMB100 4 20 


1913. pi 

St Petersburg Stale Museum ol Theatre and '■' 




1913, pencil on graph paper, 

4 x 4'/, inches 1102 * 11 5cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam 

GMB70 4 2001(122) 


1913. black ink over pencil on transparent whit. 
mounted on ordbo.. OS cm! 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga. 
Amsterdam/Stedeli|k Museum. Amsterdam 
GMBI26 4 20' 


1914, oil and collage on canvas, 
28 x 25% inches (71 x 64 cm) 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 



1914, oil, collage, and pencil on canvas, 
24 Vi * 1 9 '/: inches (62 x 49,5 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St- Petersburg 
Inv No Zh-440 


1914. oil and collage on canvas. 
21 V* « 17H inches (53 7 « 44 8 cm) 
The Museum of Modern An. New York. Acquisition 
confirmed m 1999 by agreement with the Estate of 
Ka2imir Malevich and made possible with funds from 
the Mrs John Hay Whitney Bequest (by eichange) 
814 35 



1914-15, pencil on graph paper, 

6V4 * 4% inches (16.5 * 11.2 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 



ca 191S. pencil on gi 

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Museum ludwig, Cologne. Ludwig Colic 
Dep Slg I 1979/44 



1913, pencil and collage on graph paper, 

5x4 inches (12.8 x 10,1 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

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1914-15. pencil on graph paper, 

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Private collection, courtesy Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Tokyo 


191S, pencil on graph paper. 

Private collection, courtesy Galene Gmurzynska. Zug 



ca. 1915, pencil on graph paper, 

6% x iVt inches (16.3 * 11.2 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Ludwig Collection 

Oep Slg.L. 1979/45 




1915, pencil on graph paper, 
4% x 6'/i inches (11.2 x 16.5 cm) 
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Japan 
D 323 


1915, pencil on graph paper. 



1915, oil on canvas, 

31 K x 31 'A inches (79.5 x 79.5 cm) 

State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow 

Inv. No. 11925 


1915, oil on canvas, 31'/s x 31 '/e inches (79 x 79 cm) 
Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 


1915. oil on canvas. 

nches (80 .80 cm! 
Musee national dart moderne. 
Centre Georges Pompidou. Pans 
Inv AM 1980-1 



1915, oil on canvas. 31V; x 31'/i inches (80 * 80 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galene Gmurzynska, Zug 



1915, oil on canvas. 1914 x 19% inches (49 x 49 cm) 

A.N Radischev State Art Museum, Saratov 

Inv. No Zh-1089 


191 S, oil on canvas. 15 x 1 1 % inches (40 x 30 cm) 
Private collection, courtesy Galene Gmurzynska, Zug 


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1915, oil on canvas, 28 x 17'/; inches (71.1 * 44.5 cm) 

The Museum of Modern Art. New York, Acquisition confirmed in 1999 

by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible 

with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange) 

816 35 


1915. 01 

i'um. Amsterdam 


1915, oil on canvas, 22'/i x 22 <A inches (57 x 57 cm) 
Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 



1915, pencil and India ink on graph paper, 

6'/« « 4% inches (15.4 x 11 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMB91 4.2001(20) 


1915, pencil on graph paper, 4% x 4 ! /i inches (11.9x 11.1 cm) 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam/Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam 
GMB82 4.2001(32) 



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Foundation Cultural Cent. • 
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Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam 

GMA31 4 2001(123) 



1915. pencil c 

Museum Ludwig. Cologn. 
Oep Slg 



1915, pencil on graph paper, 

4% x 6Vs inches (11.1 x 16.7 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 



1915 pencil on graph paper. 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmu' 



1915. oil on canvas, 20% x 2054 inches (53 x 53 cm) 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 



1915, oil on canvas, 22 V. x 1 9 '/a inches (57 5x48.5 cm) 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 



1915, oil on canvas, 

21 14 « 21 tt inches (53 5 x 53.7 cm) 

Regional Art Museum, Ivanovo 

Inv No ZhS-786 



1915. oil on canvas. 22h a 19 inches (58 1 . 48 3 cm) 

The Museum of Modern An. New York, Acquisition confirmed in 1999 

by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible 

with funds from the Mrs John Hay Whitney Bequest (by e«change> 

248 35 




1915, oil on canvas, 27 Vi x 17% inches (70x44 cm) 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 



1915. oil on canvas nches (80 . 62 

Stedeli|k Museum, Amsterdam 



1915. oil on canvas, 2 7 Vie x 23% inches (70 x 60 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 

ML 1620 



1915, oil on canvas. 1 7 '/; x 14 inches (44.5 i 

Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam 


35.5 cm) 


191 5. Oil on iinvjs, J8i > 26 inches (97 
Stedel'jk Museum. Amsterdam 



1915. oil on canvas. 40 x 24% inches (101 5 « 62 cm) 

Stedehjk Museum, Amsterdam 




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1915, pencil on graph paper, 6 '/« x 4'/< inches (15.7 x 10 8 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMB69 4.2001(34) 



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found..- ' *9». 


GMA36 4 2001 




1915, pencil over traces of erased sketch on graph paper, 

4'/. x 6'/; inches (11,2 x 16.6 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedrii|i Museum, Amsterdam 

GMB88 4.2001(35) 


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1915. pencil on graph paper. 

• . 10 8 cm) 
Foundation Cultural Center Khan 
Amsterdam/Stedeli|t Museum. Amsterdam 
GMB119 4 20 



1915, pencil on graph paper, 

6% x 4Va inches (16.3 x 11.2 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 


1915, oil on canvas, 31 VS x 31 'A inches (80 x 80 cm) 
Museum of Fine Arts, Ekaterinburg 
Inv. No. ZhR-397 



1915, oil on canvas nches (80 5 ■ - 

Stale Russian Museum. St Petetsbuto, 

Inv No ZhB-1408 



1915, oil on canvas, 34 VS « 28% inches (87.5 x 72 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 
Inv No. ZhB-1332 


1916, oil on canvas, 31 Vi x 31 V: inches (80 x 80 cm) 
Regional Art Museum F.A. Kovalenko, Krasnodar 
Inv No Zh-358 


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1916. oil on on. 28 inches (80 5 

Inv No ZhB-1421 






1916, oil on canvas, 31 V« x 31 Ve inches (80.2 x 80.3 cm) 
Tate Modern, London, Purchased with assistance from the 
Friends of the Tate Gallery 1978 


1916. oil on i 

Stale Russian Museum. Si Petersburg 



1915-16, pencil on graph paper, 

4'/« * 5"/. inches (10 7 x 14.6 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 




I6, pencil on ; 

•urteiy Gait"* Cm.. 



ca 1915-16, pencil on graph paper, 

4»/. x 6V, inches (11.2 x 16.3 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 

Dep Slg.L 1979/46 


1916. pencil on graph paper. 

5 cm) 
Foundation Cultural Center Khan] 
Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam 
GMB75 4 20C 


1916, pencil on paper, SVs x 4'/n inches (16 8 x 10.6 cm) 
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 
Dep.Slg.L. 1979/48 



ca 1916. oil on canvas, 20'/n x 20'/« inches (53 x 53 cm) 

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 




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1916, oil on canvas. 

40'/4x 26% inches (102.4 x 66.9 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwlg Collection 

ML 1294 


1916. oil on canvas. 

27 H inches (88. 71 
Stedehjk Museum. Amsterdam 



1916-17, oil on canvas, 

38'/i x 26'/» inches (97.8 * 66 4 cm) 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquisition 

confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of 

Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from 

the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange) 




1916, pencil on graph paper, 

6% x 4 Vb inches (16.7 x 11 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 



1916, pencil on graph paper, 

6Vi x 4 inches (15.4 x 10 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMB68 4 2001141) 



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1916. pencil on graph paper, 

I K inches (16 2 - II.; 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga. 
Amsterdam/Stedeli|k Museum. Amsterdam 
GMA33 4 200K9S) 





1917, pencil on graph paper, 

4V» x 6V. inches (10.5 x 16.7 cm) 

foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedeli|k Museum. Amsterdam 

GMB45 4 2001(44) 


1916-17. pencil on paper. 

nches (17 8 . 22 cm) 
The Judith Roth&child Foundation. New York 


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1916, pencil on graph paper, 

4'/« x 6'/> inches (10.6 x 15.5 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMB101 4.2001(40) 







1917. pencil on paper. 134 • 20 s 515cm) 

The Museum of Modern « 

med m 1999 by agreemeni ••• ol 

Kaztmir Malevich and madi 
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231 35a ♦ b 


ca. 1917, pencil on paper, 8Vs x 4 Ve inches (22 > 
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 
Dep.Slg.L 1979/31 



1917, oil on canvas, S2'/« x 30 J /< inches (133 x 78 cm) 

Private collection, courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug 



1917-18, oil on canvas. 

41 >/« x 27 (4 inches (106 x 70.5 cm) 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 





1917, oil on canvas, 2554 x 19 inches (65.6x48.2 cm) 

Kawamura Memorial Museum of Modern Art, 

Sakura, Japan 





1917, pencil on graph paper, 

6% x 8'/. inches (173 x 20.7cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMA14 4.2001(56) 


1917. pencd on grapr 

Foundation Cultural Cfntc ■ 



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1917, pencil on graph paper, 

6% * 8V. inches (17.3 x 20,7 cm) 

Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 

Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

GMA15 4,2001(57) 


1918. pencil on paper. 

IH inches (15 8 ■ 12 I cml 
Foundation Cultural Cent* - haga. 

Amsterdam/Stedeliik Muieu" 
GMB86 4 2001(50) 



1918, oil on canvas, 31« x 31% inches (79.4 x 79.4 cm) 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquisition confirmed 

in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich 

and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay 

Whitney Bequest (by exchange) 

817 35 




1917-18, oil on canvas, 38% x 27 Vi inches (97 > 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 


70 cm) 



1918, oil on 





1920 (1925-26). plaster, 

12% x 31% x 13% inches (31 5x80.5 x 34 cm) 

State Russian Museum, St, Petersburg 

Inv No Ck-2052 


ca. 1926, reconstructed by Poul Pedersen in 1978, plaster, 

10% x 23 '/i x 39'/. inches (27 3 x 59.5 x 99 3 cm) 

Musee national d'art moderne. Centre Georges Pompidou, Pans 

Inv AM 1978-877 


■ > 


1923. reconstructed in 1989. plaster. 

33V4 « 18* « 22* inches (85 2 . 48 » 58 cm) 

Musee national dart moderne. Centre Georges Pompidou. Parts 

Inv AM 1978-878 

1926. plaster and wood. 

Museum ludwia. Cologne 
ML 1310 







1927. reconstructed by Poul Pedersen in 1978. plaster. 

15)4 inches (45 « 40 cm) 
Musee national d'art moderne. Centre Georges Pompidou. Pans 
Inv AM 1978-881 


1927, i 

(86 . 30 . 30 2 cm) 

State Treliakov Gallery Moscow 


1923-24. pencil on paper, 1 7 V4 x 1 2 V« inches (44 x 30.8 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 
PC- 10482 






fr)A-f/U«ji w]_ 

ft&oPaMLtUL &p-'<*- U&. fjLop^lu/M^ 


J> I— 
h*km\ v- ? '-"V"'"^ _, 

J^Q^i^ fa> JU)%- Oft 

ca 1925-26, walercolor and pencil on paper, 
14 Va x 21% inches (36 x 54 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 
Inv. No. Pb-23163 




(l I*-) *■*«• l<* ;i« * /ly-tHSM 


.''■'«(WhV ^ 

■ ~. r .». (tt 

1923-24, pencil on paper, 
1 4 V« x 21 '/. inches (36 x 53.5 cm) 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 


ca 1925-26. pencil 01 

Courtesy o( the Busch-Retsmge' " 
Aft Museums. Camb- 
n honor of D' 
2000 242 


ca 1928, pencil on paper, 7>/« x 7 inches (20 x 17.i 
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 
Dep.Slg.L 1979/34 




1919, watercolor and pencil on paper, 
14 « 10 V. inches (35 6x27 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St, Petersburg 
Inv. No Pc-973 


' , >vu>- >■.:> 

^ ,V ' 




JwVu>>] C^H^u^ 6l£~u 
Mi etJM *t>u> £04* cu-. 



A**- * 


1923, watercolor on paper, 
7VS x 6% inches (19 x 17 cm) 
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 
Inv. No PcB-33 






' Aft U6J Uctfl^J fx^cttw- 
<Z444t<ru i+^U<frij fa JpUj/tj^ 

(tM* / l*£t -6 Ji* etjM■sy^u+4J^^vLl~ 


pencil on paper. 

Slate Ru 




1923, porcelain. 

2'/. x 4'/ 8 x 2Va inches (7.2 x 12.5x6 cm) 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 



1923, porcelain, 

2 Vi x 4'/i x IV, inches (6.1 x 11 x 5.3 cm) 

State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 

Cf-517 a 





1923, porcelain, 

6% x 8% x 3'/; inches (16 x 22.2 x 8.8 cm) 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 

Cf-1344 a, b 




1920, oil on panel, 

7 1 t ■ 1514 inches (55.6 x 38 7 cm) 

Stedehjk Museum, Amsterdam/lnstituut Collectie Nederland, Ri|swi|k 

4.2001 (1) SSB/SK 



1920-21, oil on canvas. 33'/. x 27ft inches (84 x 69 5 cm) 
Stedeli|k Museum, Amsterdam 


1920. oil on canvas. 34* » 27 inches (88 » 68 5 cm) 
Stedelgk Museum, Amsterdam 



1920-22, oil on canvas, 

28 Vi x 20'/. inches (72.5 x 51 cm) 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 



1920-22. oil on canvas. 

ihes (100 5 » 60 cm) 
Stedeh|k Museum. Amsterdam 



1928-29, oil on canvas, 

49V4 x 41 'A inches (126 x 106 cm) 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 





1928-29. oil on plywood. 

33 14 x 1 8 ft inches (84 5 x 48 cm) 

Slate Russian Museum. St. Petersburg 




1930-31, pencil on paper. 

!4Vk x 8% inches (36 « 22 S cm) 

Museum Ludwig. Cologne. ludwig Collection 

DepSlgL 1979/41 



ca 1917, pencil on paper, 

6'/< x 8'/s inches (17 2x20.7 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection 

DepSlg.L 1979/29 


t rc(N 


1930-31, pencil on paper, 

14 x SV, inches (35 5 x 22 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Ludwig Collection 

Dep.Slg.L 1979/33 



1930-31. pencil on paper, 

14W x 8H inches (35 8 x 22 5 cm) 

Museum Ludwig. Cologne. ludwig Collection 

DepSlg L 1979/56 


bk+ €**m*~ JL6+4 -£*JI<ujui-. tux***- %« 9An^ 

Ufa if n/k^ru^^ 


Courtesy Vasiln Rakitin 








7/>e following information was largely excerpted from 
Inna A. Vakhar and Tatiana N Mikhienko, eds , Malevich 
o sebe Sovremenniki o Maleviche. Pisma Dokumenty 
Vospomnia Kntika. 2 volumes. Moscow: RA, 2003 
(forthcoming). Includes notes by I Karasik, I Lebedeva, 
A V Povelikhma, A. A Shumov, and A D Sarabianov. 
Vasilii Rakitin also contributed original material In addi- 
tion, with regards to exhibitions, our research 
occasionally benefited from Andrei Nakov, Kazimir 
Malewicz Catalogue Raisonne, Paris: Adam Biro, 2002 
Where our research differed, we have cited our own 
findings When known, works by Malevich listed in the 
exhibition checklist or catalogue are given The cited 
commentaries, when not direct critiques of specific 
exhibitions, address related questions of Suprematism — 


1. Letter from Malevich to Mikhail 
Matiushin, ca. January 21-28, 1920, Vitebsk 

Read it in your own closed circle without any 
"outsiders" present 

Dear Denizens of Pesochnaya Street,' 
My dear Mikhail Vasilievich, I was very happy to 
receive your letter and I'm also happy that the 
works of your workshop 2 have attracted attention 
and achieved a new perfection. 3 1 haven't written 
to you for a long time, but I also hadn't received 
anything from you either — why is that? Thus it 
happens that we don't write to each other," per- 
haps because we create perfection within our- 
selves, or seek it within the moist recesses of our 
brain, which has many hallways and folds con- 
taining universes and their perfections. This is the 
reason why we don't write to each other and 
don't give any signs of life concerning our where- 
abouts and experiences. Perhaps our paths will 
diverge to such an extent in the infinite passage- 
ways of the brain that we will never encounter 
each other again. But this will not be true because 
even within the world of the heads of human 
beings made distant by consciousness it will come 
and collide with us. Thus, we pioneers of the new 
existence must give signs of life to each other be- 
cause we are pulling the sweep net in order to 
catch new ones for the new existence. The unity 
that unites us is within us. The relationship of this 
unity to each one of us, its nature, and our 

conscious relationship to it and towards each 
other is very important, as this unity should close 
the horizon — yes, we must close the horizon, to 
produce the shore onto which we can haul up the 
new existence I feel that now is the time that out 
of the infinite movements of our egos we must 
come together on the edge of the horizon in 
order to put into place the new existence of the 
universe of our perfection. Our hearing must be 
keen enough to hear the whispers of the new 
existence in ourselves — we must not miss a single 
movement or whisper of the perfection that is 
within us. Let us be attentive and pensive as a 
new order of consent is approaching. Observe 
how entire columns and dust clouds of egos are 
moving. Look at how they move and observe that 
there is a veritable war and fear among them in a 
battle for their own egos. Do you see a mysteri- 
ous hand squeezing the atmosphere? Nobody 
sees it but it can be felt. Do you see the new infin- 
ity, which will become the new universe? If so, 
cast a keen glance because something remarkable 
will happen. I can already see it: a line has flashed 
by and millions of hands have grasped it — the 
hands of millions of egos of personal individual- 
ism; now see how everything has risen up and 
become established as the perfection of squares, 
further, see how the square has been covered 
with faceted plants without a single crooked or 

MOSCOW, ca 1913(7) 

State Russian Museum. Si Petersburg 


dented line; what is it that grows and moves 
the structure, what is the individualistic ego 
subject to? The new existence has entered the 
fifth dimension, and personal individualism has 
been confronted by the line of economy that has 
transformed all egos into Collective Individualism; 
it is now clear that economy is the way to the per- 
fection of everything and everybody; it is now also 
clear that all will obtain existence only when they 
travel along this path of perfection; it always was, 
is and will be; but it must be revealed, seen and 
also be seen as moving towards that great perfec- 
tion — victory over time. Now I understand the 
meaning of Suprematism; now I understand its 
line; now I understand our correlation to it, now I 
see how wizened the old world is; and now I see 
two moving egos in whose faces I've learned to 
read the signs, and I divide them into perfections, 
for I enter through the gates of the World; I have 
seen the concordance of millions of elements that 
form the instruments of infinite overcoming. 

And so my dear friends, I haven't invented any- 
thing, but I have seen — there is so much in the 
moistness of our brain. I have seen the line of 
economy and established it as the fifth dimension 
of our perfection, 5 our path and our unity lie only 
in and through it. As you are my friends, I will 
now look for it in yourselves. I now want to see 
you in your essence and I want you all to ponder 
my words, as they are the sounds made by one 
who is disappearing in the distance so that your 
echo may be heard 

About my present situation. You were 
astounded that I left Moscow, but it was not I 
who left — something carried me off — something 
inside of me. I was bedridden, my hand and my 
leg weren't functioning. As I was vigorous, I strug- 
gled for a long time; everything went back to nor- 
mal and I was taken to Vitebsk. 6 This was 
necessary for my essence. It had to preserve me 
because there is much that has to come out of 
me, and now it has placed me behind a desk and 
I am working — I write as much as I can. I still 
can't walk — there is a great deal of pain in my 
side, but my hand and leg are stronger now. I 
have written 55 pages about movement and 

economy and a book on individualism and the 
ego and the collective. 7 I lectured a great deal, 
took part in debates, restored the New Art, as a 
result of which the workers appeared with 
Suprematist banners; there was a gathering of the 
trade union councils of factories and plants, 
which was decorated in Suprematist style. All the 
buildings of the plant were decorated in 
Suprematist style and in the end the Red Army 
men also joined in by hanging a Suprematist cur- 
tain in their huge theater. We are now putting 
together an album of photographs to send as a 
consolation to the Fine [Arts] reaction in Moscow. 8 

Now we are organizing in Vitebsk a Youth Art 
Rally and commemorating the anniversary of the 
School. My friends and I will also participate. We 
will send you the book in the next few days There 
have been delays with the cover. 9 

The book consists of one of my lectures, writ- 
ten down just as I spoke and published. 

I'd like to see you very much and share my 
thoughts with you. There is much that I want to 
tell you and would like to accomplish. But how 
can I do it? I must travel sitting down, and cannot 
stand for a long time. I wish that I could turn into 
a book and wind up in Olga Konstantmovna's 
warehouse. 10 

Read the letter in your own circle, without any 
"outsiders" (no matter how nice they may seem) 
present, however, you may tell them about the 
victory of Suprematism. 

Now I embrace all of you, 

Yours, K. Malevich 

Regards to Pavel Nikolaevich 

You write that you would like me to send you 
something that I'm writing about. It would be 
good for me to come and read it, but it's unfeasible 
now. The only way would be to have me invited 
through the Government Academy to present a 
lecture. But the roads are horrible. Economy forms 
the basis of my ideas about everything; the World 
and the movement, its instruments, etc 

Note (IV.) 

In October of 1919 Malevich moved from famine- 
stricken Moscow, where he lived in an unheated 

wooden house with his pregnant wife, to Vitebsk 
where there was no shortage of food. Vitebsk 
became Malevich's arena for spreading Suprema- 
tism as an artistic current and philosophical move- 
ment. Malevich took part in the intensive artistic 
life of the city, taught and organized the "party" 
Unovis (the Affirmers of the New Art) and wrote 
philosophical and theoretical works, which at first 
led to somewhat of an estrangement between his 
former friends and comrades in arms. This letter, 
sent to M. V. Matiushin after his move to Vitebsk, 
is the first detailed exposition by Malevich of the 
ideas that concerned him the most 

1. M. V Matiushin lived in Petrograd on 10 
Pesochnaya Street with his wife K. Gromozova; 
his home was the center of gravity for his stu- 
dents and comrades in arms. Filonov also lived on 
this street at the time. Malevich planned to move 
in nearby, and in 1918, he took a room at 33 
Pesochnaya Street, apt. 5. 

2. In 1918, the Academy of Arts in Petrograd 
became the State Free Higher Art Educational 
Workshops and Malevich was made head of a 
workshop. Since he permanently lived in Moscow, 
he would freguently ask Matiushin to substitute 
for him during his absences Soon after, Matiushin 
became the permanent head of the workshop, 
and Malevich visited frequently, remaining inter- 
ested in its work. 

3. Malevich was influenced by M. 
Gershenzon's book The Threefold Image of 
Perfection (1918), and incorporated "perfection" 
into his basic concepts. 

4. From 1913 to 1916 Matiushin regularly 
received letters from Malevich, who shared his 
creative plans and theoretical ideas. In 1917-19, 
the frequency of the correspondence dwindled 
considerably. The close contacts between Male- 
vich and Matiushin were renewed after Malevich 
moved to Petrograd in the summer of 1922. 

5. See "Statute A of Art," written November 15, 
1919. Its first thesis announced: "The fifth (econ- 
omy) dimension is being established" (K. Malevich. 
"0 novykh sistemakh v iskusstve Statika I skorosf 
Ustanolvlenie A." Vitebsk, 1919.) 

6. L. M. Lissitzky took Malevich to Vitebsk. 


7. The treatise "On the ego and the collective," 
first appeared in the Almanac Unovis No. 1, 
issued in May 1920 in Vitebsk with a print run of 
five copies. 

8. Malevich called "the reaction" the change in 
the leadership of the Department of Fine Arts 
(IZO) of the Commissariat for the People's 
Education (Narkompros) In April 1919, Tatlin, 
who was the head of the Moscow division of IZO, 
was replaced by D. P. Shterenberg and 0. M Bnk 
Later Malevich would write: "Tatlin , after be- 
coming the head of IZO, surrendered to the 
right . .." (Letter to Lissitzky, June 17, 1924, in 
Pisma Kazimira Malevicha El Lissitskomu I Nikolaiu 
Puninu. M., 2000, s b Published by A. Shatskikh.) 

9. A reference to the "Bulletin of the Executive 

2. Bulletin of the Executive Committee of 
Moscow State Art Workshops, No. 1, 
October 3 

May the downfall of the old world of the 
arts be etched on the palms of your hands. 

Long live the creation of the new and down with 
painterly culture — an unnecessary aesthetic sauce. 
All the efforts of painting were directed towards 
the creation of a new form of structure. Archi- 
tecture and sculpture have suffocated beneath 
the coffin of classicism. The path of painting 
when it has become extinguished as such is clear. 
Through the nonobjectivism of the color plans of 
Suprematism to a new Suprematist construction 
of the objective world The youth of the world 
has arrived 

Now we can see how the creative form moved 
under the yoke of deformed meaning of past 
ages We have before us the exhibition of the 
new art; these are not aesthetic glossy canvases 
but the path of painting, of movement, of light 
towards the objective world. Observe the move- 
ment of the new as you would the processing of 
ore or cotton at factories and plants. Here is the 
ore, but here is the brass, the smelting pit, the 
form, and the object. 

Today the painter has pointed to the new form 
From now on the painter no longer works in the 
tail end of events; he doesn't record in little 
sketches the drama of forces; the artist is as dead 
as a tattooed Papuan. The inventor of form ap- 
pears as the ruler of the world. There are no arts 
as the inventions are beautifully logical, they need 
not be embellished nor beautifully described; 
nothing will change as a result of descriptions and 
no art will change the world. It will be changed by 
the almighty economic being. And so, create by 
the plumb of economy; this is the eternal revolu- 
tionary plumb of the inventor. Hence, the ques- 
tion and the answer. 

Time; construct canvases; from the direction of 
these canvases shall take flight plans for new con- 
structions How queer the still lifes of images on 
the walls of the new world of constructions. 
Imagine Shishkin's landscapes on the walls of a 
zeppelin or Cezanne's pears. Imagine painterly 
culture on submarines. From whose canvases shall 
fly the plans for the new constructions? 

The innovators of the "economic-grub bless- 
ings" of rights and human freedom have arrived 
at the communist form of creches, freeing up 
youth from prejudices and oppression; creative 
forces are liberated; from this it is clear that it 
must be new; there is no creativity when the fos- 
silized obelisk is erected on the square. We should 
not resemble our fathers. Their faces, palaces, and 
temples may be splendid a thousand times over 
but our new meaning will not inhabit them We 
will build our own, our new world and thus will 
not wear the forms of Greece and Rome; we shall 
not be peddlers of antiques 

The innovators of the economic conditions of 
life carried the banners of the red revolution, and 
killing the "venerable old men" liberated youth. Kill 
the "venerable old men" of classicism and erect 
the new world. Keen-ones, set up the headquar- 
ters of new structures and set up the new world 
without delay lest Venuses rise up from the dead 
on narrow lifeless streets as shall rise up Pompeian 
backyards, and the young shoots will suffocate. 

The banner of the red Unovis has been raised 
and it awaits you, let us create a worldwide army of 

the new arts and we will overthrow the obelisks — 
there is no place for them on the red [beautiful] 

Our schools for the new currents, for in them is 
our youth; we are not learning to ride in Roman 
chariots as we have young aeroplanes and moto 
cars. We are not learning to sail on the ships of the 
old Saracens. We have submarines. We do not dis- 
patch fast horses with parchment letters to another 
country, as radio towers talk with the world. 

And so we are studying the new turn of events, 
we are following the new turn of events and Rosta 
informs us of the movements of the red every day 
and hour and we care not about Napoleon's cam- 
paigns. We shall have a Rosta of the arts, of its 
movements and events and let this first newspaper 
be the Rosta of the arts. 

However, what we, the innovators of the arts 
say is incomprehensible to the dwarves of the 
objective "old man" of the old world of pastorals 
and lovers of complex Verocchio. They carry their 
old world under the red shield and want the young 
world to be the guardians of the open mothers of 
God of Kazan and Suzdal. Oh Kiev-Cave 
Monastery! Oh revered, saintly protectors of the 
arts. The rizas of the old sense have been torn from 
you and naked you are, covered in the new sense. 
The faces of the saints of the Moscow Cave 
monasteries have been revealed by approval of the 
Narkompros. Idlers. The priests of the dead alley of 
the arts are farsighted That eccentric Tatlin wants 
to get money for inventing a utilitarian monument, 
without discovering the new sense (see new sense 
of the Kazan mothers— journal of the artistic life of 
the dead alley) 

Comrades, rid yourselves of your prejudices; 
open the doors and come out and say: the ceme- 
tery to the old and life to the new. Set up red 
Unovises of the arts. Enough of obelisk tombstones 
on the beautiful live squares of the commune; their 
form is for inscriptions of funeral parlors but not for 
the words of the constitution of the new life 

Long live red art on the new squares, 

K. Malevich 


Notes (V.R.) 

Malevich's article reads like a manifesto of Red 
Unovis. The appearance of such an article in a stu- 
dent magazine might seem strange (as might its 
intonation and vocabulary). Yet it is logical in the 
general context of the art scene in 1920, which 
changed swiftly and was full of conflicts. There 
was a struggle of the traditionalists against the 
aesthetics and heroes of the new art. There was a 
schism in the ranks of the proponents of new art 
over aesthetic-ethical and sociophilosophical dis- 

The head of the magazine was Sergei Senkin, a 
student of Malevich's studio in the 1918-19 
school year in the Second Free Art Studios 
in Moscow. As secretary of the All-Russian 
Central Committee of Students at the Fine Arts 
Department of the People's Commissariat of 
Education, he had great influence in 
VKhUTEMAS, newly created by combining the 
First and Second Free Studios. 

Senkin wrote a letter to the Vitebsk Unovis pro- 
claiming "everything is in the hands of the 
apprentices, whose efforts will publish the maga- 
zine . . . send all the material you have" (type- 
script, private archive) 

Malevich and Lissitzky, who had moved to 
Moscow from Vitebsk, planned to create a divi- 
sion of Unovis in the capital. Experimental work 
was being done in Vitebsk. Malevich wrote his 
tracts, in which he challenged all and sundry, 
including Marxism. How can the politicized 
Moscow Communo-Suprematists be joined with 
Vitebsk? Malevich called on, almost ordered, 
them "to establish red Unovises of arts. Enough 
of putting gravestone obelisks on living red 
squares of the commune." The revolutionary 
demagoguery sounded like a poetic text. The 
echoes of intramural artistic struggles sound like 
social demagoguery. Malevich was being sarcastic 
about the heroic efforts to preserve moments of 
the past — the Civil War was threatening to 
destroy them. The journal Khudozhestvennaia 
zhizn (Art Life), which published articles about 
ancient Russian art and did not publish Malevich, 
was also an object of ridicule, especially since the 
editorial offices were in an appropriately named 

location — Mertvy [Dead] Lane. The endless bicker- 
ing with Tatlin continued almost by inertia. He 
was just completing work on a model of his 
Tower — a utilitarian monument according to 
Malevich to the Third International 

David Shterenberg, head of the Fine Arts 
Department, was horrified. The magazine was 
going to be burned. But a few copies survived; 
some had been sent to St. Petersburg, and others 
were in the hands of those who put together the 
magazine. Let us note that this was the only expe- 
rience of a joint statement by Suprematists and 
Obmokhu (the magazine had texts by Zh. 
Medunetsky, A. Naumov, and N. Prusakov). That 
same year, 1920, Obmokhu launched its own 
publication, October Cubed. 

Malevich thought it was because of his article, 
but he was only partly right. Shterenberg was no 
admirer of Tatlm's Tower. He wasn't concerned by 
the attacks on Art Life and museum figures The 
arrows were aimed at I. Grabar, who had initiated 
many of the unique restoration projects of those 
years. What had frightened Shterenberg was 
Senkin's article "Why We Are for the Organization 
of a Party" By then, there could be only one 
party — the Bolshevik Party. Malevich gave his 
opinion on the issue in January 1921 in the 
Vitebsk publication, Path of Unovis in the article, 
"About a Party in Art " 

But probably the very fact Malevich's text was 
published in a seditious magazine was used by his 
opponents in the behind-the-scenes struggle in 
VKhUTEMAS. In the end, Malevich was never 
asked to teach there, and the idea of a Red 
Unovis turned out to be unviable. The era of the 
civil war, with its laconic poster style — Malevich 
refers to the ROST Windows — was becoming 

3. Letter from Malevich to David 
Shterenberg, February 16, 1921, Vitebsk 

Dear David Petrovich, 

I have heard rumors to the effect that you are 
organizing an exhibition abroad,' but up to now I 
have not received anything official or otherwise 
regarding this. According to what is being said, 

the exhibition will be put together in late April, 
Naturally I've never offered myself to anyone and 
for that reason the attitude towards myself by the 
organizers of the exhibition isn't particularly good 
this time as well, but one thing is clear to me and 
that is that all of you have begun a fight against 
me, the first action on your part was that 
Kandmsky and company locked my Square in the 
Schlusselberg fortress 2 and up to now it has not 
been allowed to see the light of day. Everything 
will also be arranged this time regarding the exhibi- 
tion abroad. Therefore, if you have all decided to 
send me to the exhibition, my ideological as well as 
moral conditions are to send four of my works, if of 
course, everybody will be represented by four; if by 
three, then my three; if by two, then by my two, in 
any case do not send more than four. 

If four, I ask to exhibit: 1) Black Square, 2) Black 
Circle, 3) Four Cross-like Planes and 4) White 
Square 3 Kreiter has all these works from the exhi- 
bition still, 4 which is why I cannot bring them, 
after all, I can't come from Vitebsk. 

If it is three, then the Black Square, the Black 
Circle and the White Square. If it is two — the 
black and white squares. In the catalogue, if 
there will be no articles, manifestos, etc., call it 
Suprematism, 1913. Russia 

I think that you, like the others, have power, 
this time you will not want to circumvent me, but 
if you want to send other things, it will be impos- 
sible for me to participate and having High Prin- 
ciples in art, I ask you too to have High Principles 
in regard to myself 

If groups will take part in the exhibition, then 
Unovis will have to be fully represented, 5 and 
since it hasn't received any official papers, it is 
clear that this is being done for ideological rea- 
sons. I'd like to warn you that (such] attitudes and 
underhanded dealings never come to a good end, 
on the contrary those who strive, under different 
pretexts to stifle principles always lose, this has 
been proven historically 

You David Petrovich are in charge, so I would 
urge you to be responsible before history as a 
statesman. This is why I am writing to you, be- 
cause you have power, I have ideas without power, 
and this is why you must do as I ask in this note. 


Thank you for the food parcel, my wife has 
begun to spit blood 6 

Thank you also that you permit all sorts of 
amateur high school students in all of the IZO 
departments to put spokes into the wheels of our 
new art and methods instead of strengthening 
them. Fridlender and sundry Romms 7 are like that. 

A friendly handshake, 

K. Malevich 

Notes (IV.) 

1 Malevich speaks of the First Russian Art 
Exhibition in Berlin, which opened in October 
1922. He found out about the preparations being 
made from a letter by Lissitzky dated January 22. 
1921: "A commission has been organized here 
(the instigators are Shterenberg et al.), which is to 
organize in conjunction with the Commissariat of 
Foreign Affairs and Vneshtorg, a Russian exhibi- 
tion abroad. The West is terribly interested in the 
Russian revolutionary artistic movement, but 
judges it only by Kandinsky." (V kruge Malevicha, 
St. Petersburg, 2000, p. 55) 
2. The Schlusselberg fortress in St. Petersburg was 
used for the solitary confinement of political 

Vassily Kandinsky was the chairman of the Mu- 
seum (or purchasing) Commission at the Museum 
Bureau which was organized in May 1919 in lieu 
of the First Purchasing Commission, of which 
Tatlin, Malevich, and Pavel Kuznetsov were mem- 

Slate Russian Museum, St Petersburg 

bers Kandinsky was also the first head of the 
Moscow Museum of Painterly Culture. The Black 
Square, 1915 (now in the State Tretiakov Gallery), 
was placed in the MZhK by the Kandinsky com- 
mission However, at a meeting of the commis- 
sion that consisted of Kandinsky, A. Drevm, and R. 
Falk, a resolution was passed "to place two works 
by comrade Malevich (Black Square and Red 
Square) in the cabinet of experimental technique, 
MZhK" (RGALI, f. 665, op. 1 ed. Khr 6, I. 19) 
3 Black Square (Tretiakov Gallery), Black Circle 
(evidently lost), and Black Cross (Centre Georges 
Pompidou, Paris), were most likely exhibited 
together at the 0.10 exhibition in 1915, and 
made up a series, later reproduced as lithographs 
in Suprematism: 34 Drawings. The White Square 
is dated 1918 (Museum of Modern Art, New 
York). At the exhibition in Berlin three Suprema- 
tisms of Malevich were exhibited, but the request 
in the letter was not honored 

4. Ivan Kondratievich Kraitor (1881-1957), an 
artist and restorer, worked for the Exhibition 
Bureau of the IZO (Department of Fine Arts), 
which organized a solo exhibition of Malevich's 
work in May 1920. In early 1921 he became the 
head of exhibitions. He emigrated in 1923 

5. Not mentioned in the Berlin exhibition cata- 
logue of the Unovis, but the works 195-222 and 
479-81 in the exhibition were placed under the 
rubric "Vitebsk School" without indicating the 
names of the artists. Among the listed partici- 
pants of the exhibition are ludin (nos. 74-75), 
Kagan (no. 78), and Yermolaieva (no. 320), their 
membership in Unovis is not mentioned. 

6. Lissitzky, who was living in Moscow in 1921, 
arranged for the food parcel. (See Pisma Lissit- 
kogo Malevichu I Ettingeru. Sostavlenie. Prepara- 
tion of text and Notes by Aleksandra Shatskikh — 
V kruge Malevicha, pp. 52-57.) 

7. When The Vitebsk artist Maks Fridlender, was 
in Moscow in December 1920 as a delegate of 
the First All-Russian Conference of Responsible 
Workers of the provincial sections of the IZO com- 
plained to Shterenberg about the shoddy work of 
the Vitebsk school. He proposed to provide food 
parcels for several artists — Romm, Fridlender, 

Malkm, ludovin, and others Malevich was not in- 
cluded in this list. (See Aleksandra Shatskikh, 
Vitebsk: Zhizn iskusstva 1917-1922, Moscow, 
2001, p. 163) Malevich found out about this in a 
letter from Lissitzky dated December 21, 1920: 
"Fridlender was sent from Vitebsk. At the confer- 
ence he gossiped and made insinuations about 
our workshops. . . . Then he made some provoca- 
tive statements privately to Shterenberg. I don't 
have precise information but it was more or less 
that we teach only Suprematism, that the work- 
shops are falling apart, the work is shoddy, etc. (V 
kruge Malevicha, p. 53) 

Aleksandr Georgievich Romm (1887-1952), art 
historian, specialist in modern Russian and French 
art, author of books on Matisse and Rodin, friend 
of Chagall. In 1921 he was the head of the section 
of IZO in charge of the management of culture in 
the provinces. He was critical of Malevich's work 
and system of teaching. 

4. Letter to Malevich from Kestner 
Gesellschaft, Hanover, December 30, 1924 

Dear Professor Malevich, 
Leningrad, Pochtamtskaya Street, 9 
On the basis of an initiative by El Lissitzky, we 
would like to ask you if it would be possible to 
organize an exhibition of your works as well as 
the works of the laboratories of the Institute of 
Contemporary Arts Culture This exhibition could 
then travel to other cities in Germany such as 
Hamburg, Berlin, Braunschweig, etc. The most 
convenient dates for us would be March or April 
of 1925. Please let us know as soon as possible if 
it would be possible to organize such an exhibi- 
tion, and how we could receive it. 

Respectfully yours, 


Notes (IV) 

1 . The Kestner Gesellschaft — a private art com- 
pany founded in 1916 by museum and art person- 
alities of Hanover. It had a building at its disposal, 
which belonged to the head of the organization, 
P. E Kuppers, and his wife Sophie After her 


husband's death in 1922, Sophie Kuppers con- 
ducted an independent exhibition policy, showing 
the works of such artists as Paul Klee, Karl 
Schwitters, Piet Mondnan and others. In 1922 she 
became acquainted with El Lissitzky and orga- 
nized an exhibition of his works. The letter from 
the Kestner Gesellschaft was inspired by Lissitzky. 

5. Letter from Malevich to the Head 
of the Main Administration of Scientific 
Institutions of the Academic Center, 
March 7, 1925 

To Comrade Petrov, 

During seven years of revolutionary activity many 
of my comrades have had the opportunity of 
going abroad to show their works and also 
become acquainted with the art of Western artists 
and increase their knowledge. In view of this fact 
I consider it appropriate to now raise the question 
of your assistance regarding my going abroad (to 
Germany) to organize an exhibition. 

I have worked for five years at the Narkompros 
(People's Commissariat of Education) as a profes- 
sor in the higher art schools. At present I am work- 
ing on the establishment of a scientific research 
institute in the area of the science of art and have 
at my disposal a considerable number of works — 
painterly artistic, as well as the laboratory works of 
the institute. I can assume that such an exhibition 
would be the first of its kind in the West: not only 
my works will be exhibited but also those from the 
research laboratory. The success of this exhibition 
will be vouched for by the representatives of 
German art who have come here, and this can 
also be seen from the attached letter of invitation 
from the German firm. However, not wishing to 
be exploited by the firm I am appealing for your 
help in having the Committee for the Organization 
of Foreign Tours and Exhibitions abroad to issue 
the necessary funds for the trip and the organiza- 
tion of the exhibition in the West. 

I take it upon myself to return this money out 
of the proceeds of the exhibition 

Moreover, it is imperative that I go abroad to 
obtain materials and information about Western 

art, which will further advance the work of the 
Institute of Artistic Culture, the first institution of 
its kind in the world, which will be established on 
Soviet territory. 

Leningrad, Institute of Artistic Culture 

Notes (I.V./T.M.) 

Instructions on the document: Submit for decision 
of the Artistic Department Report to Anatoly 
Vasilievich (Lunacharsky), F Petrov, S. A. V. Dis- 
cussed 41201?. 

Below: Before allowing K. S. Malevich to go on 
a tour abroad, I think it would be necessary to 
organize, in Moscow or Leningrad an exhibition 
of his works and the achievements of the Institute 
of Artistic Culture, which will travel abroad. 
4/8/25, P. Novitsky 

Below: Inform Malevich 4/9/25, P. Novitsky 

Below (in a different handwriting): Comrade 
Malevich has been informed. 

A letter repeating the text of these instructions 
dated April 14, 1925, signed by F .N. Petrov and 
P I Novitsky was sent to the Leningrad section of 
Qlavnauka and to Ginkhuk (Institute of Artistic 
Culture) to Malevich 

On March 16, Malevich sent an analogous let- 
ter to M. P. Kristi, in which he asks him to inter- 
cede to promote the organization of the 
exhibition abroad of the works of the research 
departments of Ginkhuk: Material culture (Head: 
B. E. Tatlin); Formal-Theoretical (Head: K S. Male- 
vich); Organic Culture (Head: M. V. Matiushin); 
Experimental (Head: P. A. Mansurov). In the letter 
Malevich refers to the interest shown in the insti- 
tute by Western experts and commits himself to 
reimburse the state for the funds advanced for 
organizing the exhibition. 

6. Petition from Malevich to Glavnauka 
Requestion Permission to Travel Abroad, 
ca. December 9, 1925' 

To: Glavnauka Artistic Department 
Copy: Leningrad Division of Glavnauka 
Director of the State Institute of Artistic Culture 
K. S. Malevich 

Request for Travel Abroad 
First Proposal. It seems to me that the wave of 
our painting and artistic-industrial exhibitions in 
the West is over — all of the works in this area 
have been shown and the masters of the RSFSR 
and their achievements have been presented. 2 
Now we must prepare for a new wave of new 
exhibitions, which would also show different 
work in the same artistic area namely the artistic, 
research, and scientific work. We should show 
what has not yet been achieved in the West in 
the area of aesthetics, which is of great interest 
there now. It is of great importance that we posit 
the scientific-artistic problem, as this will point to 
the trajectory of our development. 

I think that the first scientific and scientific- 
artistic exhibition organized in Moscow by Glav- 
nauka should have as one of its goals the first 
review of the suitableness of the organization of 
this type of exhibition abroad. 3 It could be the 
best indicator of all of our activities. The Institute 
of Artistic Culture is now beginning to feel its 
force and strength to such an extent regarding 
the questions it posited on the analysis of 
painterly, organic culture, that it can show its 
work to the West and for the first time draw 
attention to many questions in Artistic Culture 

The Institute of Artistic Culture is convinced of 
this and turns to the Mam Administration of 
Scientific Institutions with the request to have 
funds issued for the preparation and organization 

State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 



APRIL 7, 1927 

Slate Russian Museum. St Petersburg 

of a scientific-artistic exhibition of the Institute 
abroad; in Germany, France, and America. 

Second Proposal In case it proves impossible 
to organize an exhibition of the works of the In- 
stitute, the Institute would like to put in a request 
for the following staff members to travel abroad: 
1) the head of the Department of Painterly 
Culture (Formal-Theoretical) — K. S. Malevich, 2) 
the head of the Department of General 
Methodology — N. N. Punin, 3) the Deputy Head 
of the Department of Material Culture — N. N. 
Suetin; and the research assistant of the Depart- 
ment of Organic Culture — B. V. Ender; all individ- 
ual requests are enclosed. All of the 
above-mentioned staff members will travel on 
official business for the first time. 

Third Proposal. As a last resort, if Glavnauka 
will find it impossible to issue funds for the 
organization of the exhibition or the trips of the 
individual heads of departments. I, as Head of 
the Department of Painterly Culture (Formal- 
Theoretical), would like to petition Glavnauka to 
aid me in receiving visas and credentials to facili- 
tate my journey to France through Warsaw and 
Germany on foot, which I propose to begin on 
May 15, and reach Pans on November 1, plan- 
ning to return by tram on December 1 ' 

Director of the Institute 

(K. Malevich) 

Notes (IK.) 

1 Dated on the basis of an excerpt from the min- 
utes of the meeting of the Board of GINKhUK 
December 9, 1925, during which, after a reading 
and approval of the request the decision was 
taken to send the document to Glavnauka. 

2. In all likelihood Malevich has the following 
exhibitions in mind: The First Russian Art Exhi- 
bition (1922, Berlin; 1923, Amsterdam), XIV 
International Art Exhibition (1924, Venice), Inter- 
national Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Art 
Industry {Pans, 1925). 

3. The first exhibition of the institutions of 
Glavnauka of the Narkompros opened in Moscow 
in the Historical Museum on November 29, 1925. 
Two departments of GINKhUK took part in it: 
painting and organic culture. 

4. Only the second proposal received a positive 
response By a decision of the Commission on 
Scientific Business Trips, dated March 11, 1926, 
Malevich received the permission for the trip, 
which he couldn't take at the time. 

7. Request from Malevich for Business Trip 
Abroad, ca. 1925 

Head of the Department of Painting Culture 
(Formal-Theoretical) K. S. Malevich 
The scientific-artistic trips of the Department of 
Painting Culture are justified by the need to study 
all the circumstances of painterly currents and 
their changes on the spot, by the need to become 
familiar with all of the works and achievements of 
painters, and putting together of dossiers regard- 
ing Painterly Culture, etc. 

In addition, the seriousness of the work of the 
Department requires more precise examples than 
the photographs on the basis of which work is 
now conducted. The work will take place in Berlin, 
in Paris and Aix, in museums, private collections, 
and private artist's studios. 

K Malevich 

Notes (IK.) 

Dated on the basis of an excerpt from the minutes 

of the meeting of the Board of GINKhUK, 

December 9, 1925, after a reading and approval 
of the request, the decision was made to send the 
document to Glavnauka 

8. Notes from lectures by Malevich to a 
study group on new Western painting. 
Central House of the Arts, 1929, Leningrad 

April 8, 1929 

Malevich — You must attain the purity of percep- 
tion,'' in order to differentiate them clearly. Once 
you learn how to differentiate them clearly like 
sunflower or cannabis seeds, etc , sometimes 
there are ancestors in the thing itself; new infor- 
mation appears in it, new plans, they act more 
strongly and force one to repaint the entire paint- 
ing. Maybe one should paint on three to four 
canvases in case some new plans break up. 

In Picasso's Cubism, there seems to be some- 
what of an inner content. It seems as if his nature 
contemplates something inside of himself. But the 
Lady with a Fan 3 carries no content within itself; 
there is no pressure of another principle — maybe 
one percent. 

Cezanne applies the black in a more vigorous 
manner, and the black in the rear and [unintelligi- 


FEBRUARY 15. 1927 

State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 


ble]. The woman with fists 4 — is this an image? A 
portrait of some woman? 

I sense in her a power and strength that could 
shift the earth or have it open up beneath her 

This means that here Picasso has a sensation of 
strength and power and this dominates every- 
thing else. 

In Braque's oeuvre there is a purely painterly 
sensation; in Picasso's oeuvre there is always an 
admixture of a mystical sensation; but for us these 
contents of Cubism shall not be a law. We must 
penetrate Cezanne and Cubism and extract from 
them the fundamentals of the new art. At the 
present time the new art is establishing an extra- 
ordinary order that did not previously exist in his- 
tory: the new artist has become more flexible and 
works within a whole array of sensations both 
representational and nonobjective. The artist 
vibrates in many sensations and receives a massive 
amount of knowledge and forms. The wider the 
expanse in which he works, the richer will his 
forms be. 

Russian Museum — Konchalovsky 5 

Krimmer 6 — Has Konchalovsky passed by 

Malevich — Konchalovsky developed the right 
way out of Impressionism — the Impressionism of 
Van Gogh. Later he develops a Cezanne-like cul- 
ture on a Russian basis. Like all Russian artists, he 
achieved the first stage of Cubism. But later, 
Konchalovsky could not develop on his own 
momentum and returned to ordinary things with 
frequent mistakes — in Surikov. 7 

An individual, who has not developed his base, 
cannot stand as the equal of a master-inventor; 
he constantly falls under the influence. 

Such procedures were brought out by Picasso, 
but when the charge ended, they fell away. Kon- 
chalovsky reached the maximum in physical paint- 
ing. He went to the limits of great mastery, but 
falling under the influence of Surikov, his works 
became inferior. 

Switching from one sensation to another, pro- 
vided one knows every one of these sensations, 
drives one towards the attainment of ever-newer 

The plan of time. The Man in the Hat — no mat- 
ter how you sign it or paint it, stays in the year '96. 
But there are works, that no matter when they 
were painted, will be modern, a thing of today. 

Go to nature, but keep your conception; take it 
to nature, but receive from her as well. 8 

The times are now difficult because nothing 
can be made out of what has already been done. 

We and Repin — this was a protest, a contra- 
diction, a contrast with everything that exists, this 
was a race over forms 1,000 versts long; it had to 
be finished quickly, and there was no time to stop 
on one canvas. You, looking at my works, would 
not even be able to tell where and with what 
I as a personality used to work, because I went 
through different systems; I ran and recorded 
these systems, while I delivered blows to the 
school and to the present. 

Between you and me there is a different order 
than between me and Shishkin and Repin. 9 

Young people now have to get on the path that 
has been dug. We dug it out and now it has to be 
tamped down, covered with paving stones, etc. 

In France young people your age are already 
artists. Why? Because they follow changes and 
turns; they join the current; the fifth stage 10 is 
being developed, and up to now Fauvism — all 
turning points, and traits of Picasso. 

Over there no harm comes from it, he only has 
a firm base. No time or energy on the searches of 
new forms is expended; cultivating the form itself, 
and inventing within it. 

Braque and Gris are working in the fifth phase, 
but they are different. 

You also shouldn't dig through already dug 
paths — nothing will come of it, much has already 
been dug and you will be effaced. 

Take the Circle" — it progresses with every year, 
but along a certain line. 

In terms of sensation it is a painterly condition. 

They claim first place and renewal, and con- 
sider that the fifth phase has been outlived, but 
they are [unintelligible] lagging behind. 

A mixture of museums, Madonnas most of all, 
impressions of Moscow 

In Zagoskin 12 there is a presumption of the fifth 

phase — but his sensation is evangelical; an orator, 
like the apostle Luke, boards as in an icon or the 
fifth phase. 

Isn't it better to make a pure fifth phase, in 
order to stand on it firmly, and not to introduce? 

Like Kochalovsky — he is strong only because 
he is whole — he stands on the path of Cezanne; 
the analysis of the additional element is a terrible 
theory, which leaves nothing of the individual, as 
an analysis of the audacious and hollow, and 
Braque and Picasso haven't spent that which they 
have brought. 

Thus, it is better to stand on a certain path, with- 
out attempting to invent something ingenious. 

In my work, what is left that is purely mine is 
Suprematism; the rest is not mine. But I lost noth- 
ing by going through these systems in a strict 

And now a school must be created, a school 
for young people that would proceed along a cer- 
tain path. Now is a time rich with diverse changes 
that must be passed through instead of rushing 
about. That is, rushing about in one system — I 
would encourage Picasso and Braque — Picasso 
lost nothing by having in mind Braque — they 
developed one and the same system — as in the 
renaissance. What did they discover that was new 
in form? Nothing. The ancients invented form and 
the renaissance transferred it into the painterly 
milieu; and we are now on the verge of the same. 

I would like to move ahead, but it's impossible 
because one must work and perfect. It's impor- 
tant to do and you push forward more quickly in 
an organized way. 

For this reason I must look at your paintings 
and transfer them into a definite system. One can 
stand aside, but this would be a waste of time- 
It is necessary that when the young people 
reach my age they should attain mastery. 

I don't want to turn anyone into a Cubist or 
Futurist — in that case I would spend time on one 
system, and in one year I would drag you through 
each system. 

In the Institute — six persons. 

Present: Nelius, Krimmer, Vikhreva, Yakovlev, 
Sterhgaov, and Leporskaia.' 3 


On raising the question of monumentally in 
our time. 

Its source is easel painting 

To drag everything that a painter does to the 
wall is senseless. 

Now a painter has to study all isms 

Architects are demanding the transfer of the 
newest currents to coordinate with the new 

it is essential to reestablish monumental 

1. Learn all the isms. 

2 Learn the theory of additional elements— 
their influence on the painter. 

At the present time all forms of art are discon- 
nected in our country. 

They are already uniting in the west 

Disunity is fatal for artists. 

Sculpture is perishing now in our country, 
and only when it unites with architecture can it 
be restored. 

Painting as well 

Notes (I.L) 

1 Publication and commentary by I. V. Lebedeva. 
Private archive. Typewritten documents. Notes of 
lectures made in 1929, apparently during a ses- 
sion of the study group on new Western painting 
conducted by Malevich. The studies took place at 
the Central House of the Arts in Leningrad 

2. Malevich wrote on numerous occasions on the 
role of sensation for nonobjective artists: "From 
the point of view of the Suprematist, the phe- 
nomena of the objective world as such have no 
meaning; what is essential, is only feeling as such, 
completely independent of the milieu from which 
it springs forth The Philosophy of Suprematism 
dares to believe that Art, hitherto in the service of 
the ideas of the state and religion, can build a 
world of Art as a world of sensations ...the 
nonobjectivity of Art is the art of pure sensa- 
tions." (From a book by Malevich written in 1927 
in Berlin Quoted on the basis of Kazimir 
Malevich Sobranie sochinenii v 5 tomakh, vol. 2, 
Moscow, 1998, pp 103, 106-07 ) 

3. A reference to Picasso's painting Woman with 

Stale Russian Museum. St Petersburg 

Fan (1908). Previously in the collection of 
S. I. Shchukin, later in the Museum of New 
Western Art. 

4. A reference to Picasso's painting The Farm 
Woman (1908). Previously in the collection of 

5. I Shchukin, later in the Museum of New 
Western Art. 

5. A reference to the works of P. P. Konchalovsky 
(1876-1956), whose work was exhibited at the 
Russian Museum. 

6. Eduard Mikhailovich Krimmer (1900-1974), 
graphic artist, painter, theater and cinema set and 
costume designer. 

7. Vassih Ivanovich Surikov (1848-1916), Russian 
realist painter. 

8. Drawing in lower part of text. Inscription to 
the right, reads: Emerald with whitewash. Yellow 

9. Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (1832-1898) and Ilia 
Efimovich Repin (1844-1930), realist painters, 
whose artistic style was seen by the art establish- 
ment as a model for emulation as opposed to the 
work of the nonobjective artists. 

10. In his writings, including articles published 
between 1928 and 1930, in the journal Novaia 
generatsia, Malevich stated his ideas as follows: 
"For example. Cubism already has five types of 
forms of nonobjective painterly outlook ... in 
Suprematism there exists an element that has a 
different name depending on the circumstances 
(nos. 5, 6). For example: formative — immutable; 

additional or deforming. . The objective im- 
mutable formative element acquires a great sig- 
nificance in the collective development of the 
Suprematist form. Several individuals can work on 
this form; those who can express their heightened 
sensitivity to the latter, and create that hetero- 
geneity of form that is inherent in a distinct indi- 
viduality, at the same time not violating the 
Suprematist style" (Quoted from Kazimir 
Malevich. Sobranie sochinenii v 5 tomakh, vol. 2, 
Moscow, 1998, p. 131). 

11. "Circle of Artists" (1926-32), association of 
Leningrad artists. 

12 David Yefimovich Zagoskm (1900-1942), 
Member of "Circle of Artists " 

13 Evidently, the studies took place at the State 
Institute of the History of the Arts. Karina 
Ivanovna Nelius was a costume and set designer; 
Vikhreva was an artist; Anna Aleksandrovna 
Leporskaya (1900-1982) was a painter and porce- 
lain artist; Vladimir Vasilievich Sterligov (1904- 
1973) was a painter, and graphic artist; Yalovlev 
was unidentified. 

9. Letter from Malevich to Aleksandr S. 
Nikolsky, n.d. 

The project is to create workshops for the study of 
the achievements of the latest artistic culture in 
the area of painting and architecture and also 
their practical realization. 

The development of the latest forms in the 
artistic culture of painting and architecture has 
entered the stage of development at which the 
practical development of the problem of the 
shaping of reality should arise. 

It is now impossible to deny that the painterly 
culture of the latest formation has had an enor- 
mous influence on the shaping of our new reality. 
All types of art, including architecture, are under 
the influence of the latest painting. Our new real- 
ity is now faced with the problem of a new archi- 
tectural paradigm. For this it is necessary to think 
of the timely organization of experimental practi- 
cal workshops, in which the problems brought 
forward by the new currents, would not only 


receive scientific form but practical application. 

For this reason organizational design work- 
shops are indispensable. Such new workshops 
are the consequences of all the theoretical- 
experimental works of the Committee for the 
Study of the Latest Modern Art. 

Such workshops must have several divisions: 
two basic workshop divisions — architecture and 
painting with a joint preparatory division. 

The basic divisions are divided into many tech- 
nical cabinets on architecture and painting 

The painting department 

Cabinets: practical studies of the latest painterly 
arts textures, forms, experimental and practical 
and technology of materials. 

In the practical subdivisions or study cabinets 
the work is conducted close conjunction with the 
theoretical research division of the Committee for 
the Study of Modern Art 

The goal of the workshops is to train highly 
qualified craftsmen and artists. 

K. Malevich 

Notes (A. P.) 

Aleksandr Sergeevich Nikolsky (1884-1953), 
Leningrad architect. He was associated with 
Malevich through their joint architectural con- 
structions in Gill (State Institute of the Fine Arts). 
Prior to that, in 1926, shortly before Ginukh was 
closed down, there were plans to replace the 
director of the institute, and one of the candi- 
dates for the position held by Malevich was 
Nikolsky. After the merger of Ginukh and Gill, 
Nikolsky headed the Committee of modern artis- 
tic industry, in which Malevich's students B. Ender, 
I. Chashnik, V. Vorobiev and L. Khidekel worked. 

10. Letter from Malevich to Aleksandr S. 
Nikolsky, ca. 1930 

Dear Aleksandr Sergeevich, 
Much time has passed since the two groups rep- 
resenting Suprematism and the new architecture 
met. The "reaction in life" is rearing its head more 
and more. I can foresee that after the destruction 
of the painterly front of the new art, whose rep- 

resentatives will be driven underground, a time 
will come when the representatives of the old 
forms will also lead the attack on the new forms 
of architecture. The expansion and unification of 
all the sympathizers of the new architecture must 
be the slogan of the day for the conquest and 
implementation of the new forms. I believe that 
you and your colleagues are coming closer to our 
position and I think that you will not deny that we 
Suprematists provide a form that does not contra- 
dict the sensations of yourself and the entire 
group that shares your point of view. 

I believe that as soon as you will review the 
entire line of development of Suprematist archi- 
tecture, you will arrive at the same conclusion that 
I have after reviewing all of the Suprematism-like 
Western architecture, namely that Suprematist 
architekton with its architectural sense is on a 
higher level than Western architecture. 

You will see that the "flatlike appearance" of 
Western architecture is only the result of the influ- 
ence of "Suprematism-like" painting. There is still 
a great deal of distance from the sensation of the 
painterly to the sensation of the three- 
dimensional architectural massive. Western archi- 
tects haven't so far noticed what I told architects 
in Berlin, while Polish architects have undertaken 
the study of architecture from this perspective. I 
won't hide the fact that there is a Western imprint 
on your models as well. 

Recognizing the importance and significance of 
the architectural movement, which in the West 
has reached enormous proportions, manifesting 
itself in the creation of an entire team for the 
development of one motif, I feel that it would be 
necessary to create such a team in the USSR. 

However, under the conditions of the develop- 
ment of the Suprematist architectural front 
against the Constructivist front, which "swims in 
the clear water" of the speculative functionality of 
a building's construction, and which is already 
making sorties through the functionalism of life to 
form. (See the reference about Kaz. Malevich.) 
You cannot deny that our nineteenth century is a 
century of a lack of form and only with the 
appearance of the new art did we notice the rais- 

ing of the question of form. The dictatorship of 
speculation is increased by speculative functions. 

The constructivists fully supported this business 
and Gan for the first time in a reference to me 
began to speak of form In this way we can notice 
(the indications) of some sort of ideological rap- 
prochement. But so far only words have been 
spoken, but we already have form that has 
appeared not on the basis of speculative life but 
on the artistic basis of art 

Can they refute my idea that life is always 
impoverished, and we artists following the ab- 
stract path always find the form in which life is 

Thus we stand on the verge of a new classicism 
and the basic motif for the development of this 
new classical epoch must be Architektonic 

Certainly, for the elaboration of this entire 
question, not only Suprematists, but architects as 
well, must be included so that a new front of 
architecture can be created. 

Consequently, my group and I would like to 
propose to you and your group the development 
of the Suprematist architectural front by including 
many architects in our ranks. 

K. Malevich 

P. S. I remember that at our first meeting you 
raised the question of attribution. I believe that 
this question can be well resolved by a division of 
functions: the form and its "constricture," i.e., we 
will call the artistic side and the engineering, in 
that case the authorship of an entire building will 
be assigned to two authors: The authors 
of Suprematist formation and the authors of 
Suprematist design. 

Secondly, if a member of the Suprematist group 
makes Suprematist architecture independently, 
without the participation of a Suprematist forma- 
tion — in and of itself — the authorship will belong 
to the Suprematist engineer. 

But if the members of Suprematism take part 
in its construction, then the degree of the 
authorship will depend on the degree of the work 
done. I think that these are purely material ques- 
tions that can be resolved in the same degree of 


co-authorship, i.e. the proportion of work done 
by each worker performing one task or another. 

And so, if your group agrees with the basic 
point of the development of the Suprematist 
architectural front, I request that you set forth in 
writing your motives and requests and proposals 
which will lead closer to a merger. It is somehow 
better to lay out one's thoughts and position 
on paper 

11. Transcript of the OGPU (United State 
Political Agency) Interrogation of Malevich, 
September 1930 



Op. Upolnomochenny. 7th Section [surname] 


I, the undersigned, have been interrogated as the 

accused (witness— crossed out] 

give evidence: 

1. Surname: Malevich 

2. First Name, patronymic Kazimir Sevennovich 

3. Age (the questionnaire is further not filled out, 
the page is crossed out] 

Having been warned about the responsibility 
of giving false testimony, I provide the following 
testimony in relevance to the case: 

My view on art: art must provide the newest 
architecture and everything connected with its 
entirety, reflecting the social problems of prole- 
tarian society. 

I am being accused of formalism by the staff of 
the State Institute of the Arts in the person 
Atsarkina and Serebnakov, 1 this is not correct as I 
have proven with my work and my contemporary 
view on art; I am striving to be closer to produc- 
tion: my new works on dishes are in demand for 
export, which provides our union with an eco- 
nomic benefit; at the same time there is recogni- 
tion in the West of our innovation in art, with 
which we can show our achievements on the cul- 
tural front. 

I traveled abroad on official business on behalf 
of Glaviskusstvo. I completely fulfilled the task 
with which I was charged The exhibitions that I 

organized in Germany and Poland presented a 
favorable impression of Soviet art I never shared 
the views of the bourgeois world in art and never 
belonged to any right [wing] currents When I was 
in Warsaw, the right [wing] — the bourgeois prac- 
titioners of art didn't even provide me with ade- 
quate space. 2 In Germany I was referred to as the 
"Bolshevik who has arrived." In Warsaw I wasn't 
able to contact the bloc "g" as by that time it had 
fallen apart. It consists of two people and the sub- 
stance of their work is not connected to mine. 

There were no attempts on the part of the 
practitioners of art of the bourgeois tendency to 
win me over to their side, nor could there have 
been, as my convictions and views on art, based 
on thirty years of work, are known. 

From the first days of the revolution, I have 
been working for the benefit of Soviet art, while 
at the same time, during the revolution, a part of 
the reactionary element turned away from work. I 
come from a worker's family 4 and became famous 
by my own efforts. I didn't study anywhere 
because I couldn't be accepted in any institution 
of learning due to the social system in tsarist 
Russia "■ I received from the Revolution everything 
I have strived for and now I can, with confidence, 
apply my knowledge to the common cause. 
However, due to the presence of some bureau- 
cratic vestiges from the past, even though I have 
my own laboratory at the Institute, I am unable to 
fully develop my own production project, in spite 
of the fact that in the final decision of the 
Commission on the purging of the state appara- 
tus 6 the work of my laboratory was recognized as 
valuable and indispensable in terms of resolving 
the problems of the new way of life, in textiles 
and polygraphy, etc ; but there are, as yet, no 
results based on these decisions. I believe that in 
the majority of cases this is due to the director, 
Serebnakov. My usefulness in work is known to: 
Lunacharsky, the head of IZO CC (Central Com- 
mittee), VKP(b) (All-Russian Communist Party- 
Bolshevik), Shutko, Kirill Ivanovich 7 ; The Chairman 
of Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries, Petrov; 
Tirtadov, Artem S. (8), employee of Narkomtorg 
(Peoples' Commissariat of Trade) in the area of 

export-import, who knows me in connection with 
my work in the artistic decoration of dishes. All of 
these persons have known me as a Soviet artist 
for several decades. 

I cannot testify to anything more, I read the 
statement, and witness the testimony with my 

K. Malevich 

Interrogated by [signature) 

Notes (IV.) 

In accordance with the rules governing the use of 
the TsA (Central Archive) of the FSB the surnames 
of the workers of the OGPU and witnesses con- 
nected with the case have been deleted. Case No. 
3730, 1, 14-15 (handwriting on form). The text of 
the testimony is written in red ink by the inter- 
rogator (in the present publication in italics). 
Grammatical errors in the handwritten text 
have been corrected in the present publication 
Malevich's handwriting is original. Malevich was 
arrested on September 20, 1930, by the OGPU 
(United State Political Agency) on the charge of 
"having committed a crime under article 58-6 of 
the Criminal Code," i.e., espionage was linked by 
the investigation to his trips abroad: "the present 
case arose on the basis of a report to the OGPU 
that Malevich, during his official trip to Poland in 
1927, met with a group of artists hostile to the 
USSR In addition, after being asked to register at 
the Embassy in Warsaw, delayed doing so — 
ostensibly because of "ill health"(lbid , I. 19 
typical that the case against Malevich was not 
launched immediately after his return but three 
years later. This had to do with the intensification 
of an ideological campaign— a great purge of the 
staff of Narkompros, involving firings and the 
"working over" of those who thought differently. 
Strangely enough, Malevich wasn't accused of 
intending to emigrate — a dangerous matter for 
Malevich. In his testimony Malevich avoids politi- 
cal subjects (even though in one of the question- 
naires of the case, answering a question on his 
political beliefs writes "Sympathetic to Soviet 
Power" (Ibid , I. 11). He quite skillfully changes the 
topic of the conversation to "left-wingers" and 


"right-wingers" identifying "practitioners of art 
hostile to the Soviet Union" with the representa- 
tives of "bourgeois tendencies" and proves his 
not belonging to the latter. A few days after his 
release on December 8, 1930, he wrote to his 
friend L Kramarenko: The case involved the ideol- 
ogy of all existing currents and I as a theoretician 
and ideologist had to clarify ... whether there 
were in all of the currents, "right" or left devia- 
tions, if some things weren't carried too far, etc." 
(Quoted from I. A. Zhmoisto, Lev luhevich 
Kramarenko, 1888- 1942. Zhivipis. Grafika. 
Katalog Vystavki, Moscow, 1995.) 

1. Esfir Nikolaevna Atsarkina (1903-1977), art 
historian and author of books on Russian 
Romantic painters. In 1930, she was the secretary 
of the history of art section of Gill. From 1944, 
she worked in the Tretiakov Gallery 

2. Mikhail Vasilievich Serebnakov (1879-1959), 
Soviet public figure. A lawyer by training, he 
worked as a propagandist and political editor of 
newspapers and magazines. Beginning in 1921, 
he was professor at the Petrograd University. 
From 1927-30, he was the rector of the LGU 
(Leningrad State University). In April 1930 as a 
result of the purge of the staff of Narkompros he 
was appointed the director of the Gill in lieu of 
D. I. Shmidt. 

2. Malevich's exhibition took place in a hall of the 
Hotel "Polonia" in which the space for hanging 
pictures was small and unsuitable. Photographs 
of the exposition show that several vertical com- 
positions were exhibited horizontally due to lack 
of space. 

3. Malevich puts together the names of different 
artistic groups: the Polish association Blok 
(1925-26), whose organizers V. Strzheminsky 
and K. Korbo founded the group Preznes in 1 926, 
and the association of Berlin architects G 
(Gestaltung), whose members included H. Richter 
and Mies van der Rohe (as of 1 923). 

4 Malevich distorts the facts somewhat. His 
father was a highly qualified sugar-manufacturing 
engineer and a member of the nobility. 
5. Not entirely true. There were no restrictions 
based on class origin in tsarist Russian institutions 

of learning. The Moscow School of Painting, 
Sculpture and Architecture was especially liberal: 
Malevich attempted to gain admittance there 
many times but failed the exams in his field. 
According to Vladimir Mayakovsky's memoirs, this 
was the only school that did not require a refer- 
ence of trustworthiness, i.e., political loyalty. 

6. A commission that worked in Gill from the end 
of 1929 to early 1930. The Red Gazette of 
Leningrad, January 30, 1930 (evening edition), 
reported: "Moscow (By Telephone)." 

An order concerning the Leningrad Institute of 
the History of the Arts has been published, in 
which it has been deemed expedient to preserve 
the institute "as a single institution of learning, sys- 
tematically studying art from a Marxist perspec- 
tive." Glavnauka and Glaviskusstvo have been 
charged with forming the new membership of the 
presidium of the institute. The new presidium will 
have a month to review the present personnel of 
the institute including the members, staff, and 
heads of departments." However, in that same 
year 1930, in connection with the purge of the 
staff of Narkompros the institute was reorganized 
and became known as the Leningrad Division of 
the State Academy of Art History, and its governing 
body was changed. 

7. Kirill Ivanovich Shutko (1884-1941), professional 
revolutionary, from 1902, member of the RSDP 
(Russian Social Democratic Party). In Soviet times 
he worked in the area of the management of cul- 
ture. Malevich became acquainted with him in 
1905 and maintained friendly ties with him for 
many years. In 1930 he occupied a high position in 
which he was responsible for cultural policy in the 
cinema in the CC VKP (b) (Central Committee of 
the All-Russian Communist Party — Bolshevik). 
According to Malevich's daughter, U K Uriman, 
Malevich was released from prison as a result of 
Shutko's intercession. In 1938 Shutko was arrested 
and died in the camps. 

8. Artem Sergeevich Tirtadov, friend and fellow- 
countryman of K. I. Shutko, professional revolu- 
tionary. In Soviet times he worked in the food 

12. Letter from Malevich to N. A. Malevich, 
November 15, 1930, Leningrad 

My dear, darling Natashenka, 
I believe that you will be able to keep the family 
together. Keep the room. I hope that justice will 
triumph, and we will see each other soon. I had 
a second attack — this is bad. I miss you and 
Unochka terribly. If you don't have enough 
money for [unintelligible word] affairs, you 
should be helped. Write to the Kiev Museum to 
hold up my paintings until my release. If they 
intend to buy — then at what price?' My 
paintings are valuable — how much will they 

I kiss you, your loving Kazik. 
Dear Unochka. 

Be well-behaved and good, live in friendship with 
everybody. Study and listen to others. I kiss you 
and Babushka. 2 Regards to Neli and Vasia 3 Papa. 

Natashenka you must write to Mechik not to 
forget Unochka, your — kiss you — loving Kazik. 

Notes (I.V./T.M.) 

(First publication in the newspaper Supremus, 
1991 No. 01, p. 8) 

Postcard: On the reverse side in Malevich's hand- 
writing: K. S. Malevich, Cell 167, ODPZ Nizhe- 
gorodskaia 39. 

Where: Leningrad, Soiuz-Sviazi Street, Bldng. 2, Apt. 5 
To whom: Natalia Andreevna Malevich 
The text is written in pencil. The postcard is ad- 
dressed to N. A. Malevich (nee Manchenko, 
1902-1990), wife of the artist. (Their marriage 
was registered in July of 1927.) 
ODPZ — Otdelenie Dosrochnogo Predvaritelnogo 
Zakliuchenia (Department of Preliminary Imprison- 
ment Before Trial) 

1 . Malevich's paintings and architektons remained 
in the Kiev Museum after his solo exhibition in 
1930. The museum planned to acquire the paint- 
ings, but due to lack of funds this question could 
not be resolved for a long time. (See Malevich's 
correspondence with L. lu. Kramarenko — ed. Lev 
lunevich Kramarenko.) 

2. Una (1920-1989), daughter of Malevich and 
Sofia Mikhailovna Rafalovich, lived at that time with 


her grandmother— Maria Sergeevna Rafalovich 

3. Vasilii Raflovich (1891-1953). the brother of 
Sofia Mikhailovna Rafalovich, Nelli (Nionila) Gavril- 
ovna (1893-1963) was his wife 

4. Mechislav Sevennovich Malevich (1882-1962), 
the brother of K S. Malevich lived in Moscow. 

13. Letter from Malevich to Ivan Kliun, 
June 2, 1931, Leningrad 

Dear Ivan Vasilievich! 

I think that you already had a chance to rest and 
wear yourself out in Moscow. As for myself, I am 
suffocating completely. One could say that up to 
now my vacation in Sochi has not gone out of my 
mind, and now I still have to wait in Leningrad, 
and I don't know when I will leave. I'm completely 
alone here There's no one to talk to. Everybody is 
sitting like moles. 

Summer has arrived, and I'm like a little bird in 
a cage in this damn city I'd like to leave for Mos- 
cow, but I'm unable to. Maharstroy, if you'll ex- 
cuse the expression at this time of night, evidently 
wants me to work for — let us say — 150 rubles. 2 1 
waited and waited and not a damn thing. I either 
have to grasp at something or lower the anchor. 

I was asked to become a consultant for Lengiz. 
They offered 440 rubles. We signed the contract 
but I'm again stuck on the Moika. I'm completely 
bored out of my mind I left a long time ago. I 
could now be back after June 15 It would be 
good if you were in Moscow. This summer I will 
live in Abramtsevo and the little village of Bykovo. 

I'm thinking of painting portraits. For the time 
being I wrote a book — Izologia* I'll bring the 
rough draft with me to Moscow. We'll read it and 
type two copies on your typewriter for friends as a 
memento, as I won't be able to publish it anyway. 

Call my brother, or maybe you can find out 
from Mikhail Petrovich what the situation is with 
my sketches. The Tretiakovka took two of my 
sketches and wanted to buy them, but so far I 
don't know if they will or not. 4 Regards to 
Ekatenna Konstantmovna. 5 

Your Kazimir Malevich 
[On the reverse]: 

Do you know, Ivan Vasilievich, that during the 
entire time of my vacation I had a very strong pre- 
monition of death. Somehow, I don't want to die, 
but every evening this idea gnaws at me. I feel it 
so acutely, and it's so disappointing that I've lived 
for a long time but haven't done much. 

But I want to live, oh how I want to live. And 
you know, I'd like to live the remaining time more 
gaily. You get to thinking that in the past the 
times were bad but they were gay, but now the 
times are better but there is no gayness; but time 
marches on and the clock beats out the time 

The years pass by, and before you know it 
you've kicked the bucket. I'm getting these 
thoughts also because there are no people from 

When I die, all of the artists and those who 
know me must bury me in Barvikha. 6 Do you 
remember where we sat the last time? You can 
see far into the distance. The Moscow River winds 
its way calmly. But further from the shore so that 
my legs won't stick out. And place on the grave a 
tower in the shape of that column, which is in the 
Tretiakovka (perhaps in the basement)' on which 
will be placed a telescope — "Jupiter" — to look 
through. And when you drop dead you can lie 
down next to me — I know you'll outlive me. 

K. Malevich 

Notes (A.S./I.V.) 

1. In this allegorical form Malevich speaks of his 
arrest in the fall of 1930 

2. For several years Malevich attempted to move 
back to Moscow, and with this goal in mind 
negotiated with the Moscow Trust "Maliarstroy," 
which offered him the position of consulting artist 
for its design bureau 

3. In speaking of his "little book" Malevich evi- 
dently has in mind a new version of one of the 
chapters of a book conceived by him (Izologia), 
entitled "The Practice of Impressionism." The 
manuscript (in three versions) was at the disposal 
of N. I Khardzhiev. The final version (67 sheets) 
was dated by the author October 1932. At the 
present time, the manuscripts are in the RGALI 
(closed archive). 

4. In January 1931, Malevich proposed to the 
Tretiakov Gallery to acquire a version of his paint- 
ing the Flower Girl (dated 1904, signed by the 
artist), and the painting Two Sisters (Sisters, artist 
dated, 1910) (See declaration in the book of art 
acquisitions, OR GTG, f 8 MM, No 814.) The 
gallery only acquired Sisters: The Flower Girl was 
in the collection of the Chudnovsky family, St. 
Petersburg. Both paintings are now dated 1930. 

5. Kliun's wife, Ekatenna Konstantinovna 

6. Malevich wrote about this in his will, 
December 1, 1933. Later he amended it, as the 
Council of Ministers was building a sanatorium in 
Barvikha, and it became a restricted area. 

7. Architekton, belonging to the Tretiakov Gallery, 
was in the repository of the museum. See article 
by Tatiana Mikhienko in this publication. 

State Russian Museum. St Petersburg 





State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 






December, 19, 1915-January 19, 1916 
The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 
"0.10" [Zero-Ten], Galerie Dobychina, 

39. Square; 40. Painterly Realism of the Football 
Player — Painterly Masses in the Fourth Dimension; 
41. Painterly Realism of a Boy with a Satchel — 
Painterly Masses in the Fourth Dimension; 42. I; 
43. Painterly realism of a peasant woman in two 
dimensions; 44. Self-Portrait in Two Dimensions; 
45. Automobile and Lady — Painterly Masses in 
the Fourth Dimension; 46. Lady — Painterly 
Masses in the Fourth and Second Dimensions; 47. 
Painterly Realism of Painterly Masses in Two 
Dimensions; 48-59. Painterly Masses in Motion; 
60-77. Painterly Masses in Two Dimensions in a 
State of Rest. 

Malevich's catalogue statement (see page 00): 
In naming several of the paintings I do not wish to 
show that forms must be sought in them. I want 
to point out that I regarded real forms as heaps of 
formless painterly masses on which a painting 
was created that has nothing to do with nature. 


Alexandre Benois, The Last Futurist 
Exhibition, speech delivered January 1, 1916: 

Mr. Malevich speaks very plainly of the disappear- 
ance of the habit of the consciousness to see 
images in paintings. But do you know what this 
is? It is nothing less than a call for the disappear- 
ance of love, that fundamental principle that pro- 
vides us with warmth and without which we 
would inevitably freeze to death and perish. "The 
habit of the consciousness to see the nooks and 
crannies of nature" — but this is the whole of 
the landscape; this is everything: Durer, Dante, 
Rembrandt, Impressionism, Cezanne, Turgenev, 
Wagner, and Fidii. Most important, this is the sum 

total of all that they loved. It is how they 
expressed their "cult of life," their relation to the 
universe Instead of this Mr. Malevich (and he is 
not alone in this, but a representative of his time, 
his "legion") is glad that he has transformed him- 
self in the "nothingness" of forms, that he has 
destroyed the ring of the horizon which "leads 
the piper away from his goal and to destruction " 
Mr. Malevich promises to bring us to the goal and 
to destruction, and thus he is seized with pride 
and aspires to some sort of divine honors. . . . 

At the exhibition we can find an illustration of 
this "sermon of nothingness and destruction," 
high in a corner just under the ceiling, in the hal- 
lowed space, there hangs a "work" without a 
number, undoubtedly by the same Mr. Malevich, 
depicting a black square framed in white. No 
doubt this is the "icon" which the Messrs. 
Futurists are proposing instead of Madonnas and 
shameless Venuses. This then, is the "mastery 
over the forms of nature" towards which, with 
the full force of logic, leads not only the work of 
the Futurists with their confused muddle and their 
breaking of "things," with their crafty, insensitive, 
rational experiments, but also all of our "new cul- 
ture" with its means of destruction, and with its 
even more terrible means of mechanical "restora- 


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tion," with its "Americanism," and with its king- 
dom of the "Boor," not in the future but in the 
here and now. A black square in a white frame- 
work is not just a joke or a challenge, nor is it a 
chance episode of little importance in a house on 
the Field of Mars; it is an act of self-affirmation by 
the principle whose name is the "impertinence of 
desolation" which takes pride in the fact that 
through arrogance and a sense of self-importance 
and by the vilification of everything that is loving 
and gentle, it can lead everyone towards death 
and destruction.... Whence can the words of the 
incantation come? How to pronounce the spell 
which will once more bring back the cherished 
images of life upon the background of the black 

Mikhail Matiushin, "On the Exhibition of 
the Last Futurists," Almanakh vesennii 
(St. Petersburg: Ocharovanny strannik, 1916), 
pp. 17-18 

In welcoming every quest for the new, we are 
happy to recognize as such, although not fully, 
Malevich's "New Painterly Realism," which for 
some reason goes by the academic name of 

The idea of the independence of color in paint- 
ing and revelation of the individual characteristics 
of each material has its history, but Malevich has 
strongly felt this idea in a new way. How he has 
coped with "the New" is another matter. On the 
positive side is the great value of his achievement. 


(ZERO-TeN), 1915 

State Russian Museum, St Petersburg 

The inconsistency of the "symbol of conceal- 
ment" up to the strongly protected body and the 
inadequacy of the conditions for the new mea- 
sure are on the negative side. The difficulty of the 
realization of his idea lies in the rejection of form, 
which has a detrimental effect on coloring. The 
coloring should stand above form to such a 
degree so as not to flow into any squares, set 
squares, etc. In addition to this difficulty the 
dynamic of the color, i.e. its movement, has to be 
expressed. And if not everything has been done 
as it should be, it is the fault of the Moscow artists 
who are ready to give up everything for the right 
to be in first place even for an instant. For the 
sake of this, nothing is spared. The first one to 
come up with the new is king! Moreover, a cou- 
ple of good friends can snatch your new ideas 
right from under your nose. So there is simply no 
time to bring an idea to fruition. Even if your new 
idea won't ultimately succeed you can still get a 
lot of mileage out of it in the beginning.... 

In the shallowness of the introduced colorful 
planes one feels a break from "Cubo"; incom- 
plete and broken where, with the full force of 
painterly mass, it should be confirmed simply and 
ingenuously. But the execution and idea are so 
interesting that they create a strong impression of 
an impending transformation in art 

Anonymous, '"Double-V Futurist 
Exhibition," Petrogradskii listok, 
December 20, 1915 

This exhibition does not differ in any way from 
last year's exhibition: the same wild smears of 
paint, the same cardboard and tin cylinders, cones 
and bricks, nailed to boards and named in the 
catalogue by the most unexpected names such 
as "Portrait of Uncle," "Street," "Synthesis of 
Beauty," "The Suffering of Light Blue Happiness," 
"Suprematism of Art," etc. 

Incidentally, these are not the ravings of mad- 
men, but rather, this is a case of clever poseurs 
luring in the public to get the fifty-kopek admis- 
sion fee out of them. 

Nikolai Punin, "A Chapter from Memoirs," 
Panorama iskusstv 12 (Moscow, 1989), 
pp. 180-86 

In 1915 in Petersburg The Last Futurist Exhibition 
"0.10" was held — that is what it was called 
"0. 10" The Last Futurist Exhibition. 

Malevich came from Moscow with this exhibi- 
tion bringing with him Suprematist squares and 
an entire retinue of artists: They had all gone 
through Suprematism and Suprematism came to 
tempt us. 

Evidently we couldn't imagine back then quite 
clearly what place Suprematism would take in the 
new art. In Malevich himself — that magnificent 
agitator, advocate, and heresiarch, of the 
Suprematist faith, and in everything he said, there 
was, at that time a great deal of vague Futurism, 
a proclivity towards inventiveness at the cost of 
quality and much rationalistic ferment. We felt 
that Suprematism was a dead end: an emptiness 
concealed by the futuristic heroic deed — a void of 
invention outside of the material. Suprematism 
was the cold emptiness of rationalism vanquished 
by the world helplessly raising a square over it. 

The arrival of Malevich and the resulting com- 
motion involving Suprematism, was a landmark in 
our lives. Later, when he left, and life resumed its 
natural course we were no longer the same: We 
had experienced the Suprematist squares, behind 
the Suprematist squares was the negated Cubo- 
Futurism and before us, ever more demanding, 
ever more mature, sated on life and merging with 
it as a concrete problem of quality, stood art. 


November 6-December 19 
Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by 
the Association of Artists "Knave of 
Diamonds," Salon K. Mikhailova, Moscow 

140-99. Suprematist Paintings 



A. Rostsii (A. M. Efros), "Bubnovi Valet" 
("Knave of Diamonds"), Russkie vedomosti 
November 8, 1916 

T he Suprematists who have expelled from their 
paintings all figurativeness, and who have turned 
paintings into a combination of abstract, colored 
squares, circles and lines cannot consider them- 
selves to be the "dernier en" in this respect; cer- 
tainly they are no more than the epigones of 
Kandmsky, whose teachings they have altered, 
cleaned-up and made more cerebral and cold... 


April 23 

Auction Exhibition to Benefit Recently 
Released Political Prisoners, Salon 
Edinorog, Moscow 

65. Suprematism of Color 

November 16- December 4 
Exhibition of Paintings by the Association 
of Artists "Knave of Diamonds," Salon K. 
Mikhailova, Moscow 

Suprematism: 129. A; 130. B; 131 V; 132. G; 133 
D; 134. E, 135. ZH, 136. Z; 137. I; 138. I; 139. K, 
140. L; 141. M; 142 N; 143 O; 144 P. 

December 6-19 

Second Exhibition of Contemporary 
Decorative Art "Verbovka," Salon K. 
Mikhailova, Moscow 

128-36 Pillow, 137-38. Ribbon. 139 Belt; 140- 
43 Bag; 144. Blotting Pad. 


Nikolai Punin, "On the New Artistic Groups," 
Iskusstvo kommuny, February 9, 1919 

Suprematism has blossomed all over Moscow in 
magnificent colors There is Suprematism every- 
where on shop-signs, in exhibitions and cafes. 

All of this is very revealing. One could say with 
confidence that the day of Suprematism is arriving 
and on that very day Suprematism will lose its cre- 
ative importance. What was Suprematism? 

Without any doubt it was a creative invention, 
albeit a purely painterly one. Suprematism gath- 
ered within itself all the painting of the past and 
thus contained within itself all of the painterly 
shortcomings (as well as virtues) of the past 
Suprematism extracted from the world history of 
art all the painting that existed in it and organized 
it through its elements. At the same time it 
abstracted this painting, depriving it of material 
substance and a raison d'etre. That is why 
Suprematism is not grand art, that is why it is so 
easily applied to textiles, cafes, fashion drawings, 
and so on. Suprematism is an invention that is 
destined to have an enormous importance in 
applied art, but that is not yet art. Suprematism 
did not provide a form. Moreover it is "polar" in 
form as a principle of a new artistic era. There is 
no further development of Suprematism. It is a 
closed concenter in which all paths of world art 
have come together in order to die there. 

Vera Pestel, extract from 1916 diary: 

The artist Malevich has simply painted a square 
and completely filled it in with pink paint; he filled 
in another square with black paint and then many 
squares and triangles with different colors His 
room was beautifully decorated in a multitude of 
colors, and it was very pleasant to transfer one's 
gaze from one color to another (incomprehensi- 
ble)— all of them of different geometric shapes. It 
was very peaceful to look at the different 
squares — no thoughts came to our minds nor 
any desires. The pink made one happy as well as 
the black. 

We liked it. It was good to sit in such a room 
and not thing of any objects, while the colors 
made the room cheerful and happy. The fulfilled 
geometric forms made everything colorful, pleas- 
ant, and peaceful. 

We also became Suprematists (that is what he 
called himself) . 

There is no Weltanschauung here. No feelings, 
or moods But feeling is just the sensuousness of 
colors. That is all 

— Excerpted from Amazonki Avangarda 
(Moscow: Nauka, 2001), pp. 241-42 


April 27 — ca. May 31 

Tenth State Exhibition: Nonobjective Art 
and Suprematism, Salon Rozdestvenka 
Street, Moscow 

140-55. Suprematism 

November 8-December 22 
First State Exhibition of Paintings 
by Local and Moscow Painters, Club 
Borohov, Vitebsk 

81. Portrait of the artist Kliun; 82. Cow on a 
Violin; 83. Suprematism 


February 6 

First Exhibition (One-Day) of the Unovis 

Group Posnovis, Vitebsk 

Without catalogue 

February 15 - March 1 

Second Student Exhibition of the Art 

School, Vitebsk 

Without catalogue 

MARCH 25, I920-? 
Courtesy Vasilu Rakmn 


Opened on March 25 

Sixteenth State Exhibition of VTsVB. 

Kazimir Malevich: His Path from 

Impressionism to Suprematism, Salles B. 

Dimitrovka, formerly Salon K. Mikhailova, 


Without catalogue 


M. Lerman. Notes of a Conversation, n.d. 

Attended Malevich's exhibition. A suite of 
rooms — Cezanneist works, Cubism, Cubo- 
Futurism, colored Suprematism, black-and-white 
Suprematism, a black square on a white back- 
ground and a white square on a white back- 
ground and in the last hall — empty white 

— Excerpted from: Aleksandra Shatskikh, 
Vitebsk: Zhizn iskusstva 1917-1922, Moscow: 
lAzyki russkoi kultury, 2001, p. 127. 

V. Khodasevich, from Portrety Slovami. 
Ocherki (Portraits in words: essays) 

At one of his exhibitions he (Malevich) exhibited 
an "almost perfect" Suprematist work. This was a 
square canvas, well covered with oil whitewash 
(approximately seventy by seventy centimeters) in 
a gilded frame. Subsequently he exhibited just an 
empty frame. In both cases there were many dis- 
cussions and debates, but in both cases his intent 
was mockery 

A. Sidorov, "Khudozhestvenni vystavki" 
("Art exhibitions"), Tvorchestvo (Nos. 2-4, 
1920), p. 34 

The first exhibition to open was dedicated to the 
oeuvre of Kazimir Malevich, the inventor of 
Suprematism, who has, for a long time, been the 
focal point of young "left" artists. His work is con- 
sidered unintelligible by those who have not 
learned to attune their eyes to the Suprematist 
manner. The paintings at the exhibition range from 
the most innocent realistic-impressionist studies to 
works where, reaching the heights of non-objective 
art, two types of white textures set against a white 
background delineate white circles. 

The artist follows a logical path. He rejects one 
thing in nature and then he gradually discards fig- 
urativeness itself. This is a straight and honest 
path. However, there are no "revolutions" here. 
Malevich has come to his "last word" by develop- 
ing qualities that were inherent in well-known 
phenomena of impressionism. At the exhibition 
one becomes clearly aware of the fact that our 
"left" non-objective art — you can call it as you 
like — "suprematism," "futurism," or anything 
else — really is the last word of all of the old art 

A. Efros, "Kazimir Malevich: 
Retrospektivnaia vystavka" ("Kazimir 
Malevich: retrospective exhibition"), 
Khudozhestvennaia zhizn (No. 3, 1920) 

Up to now Malevich has been a rather mysterious 
master. Not that we don't know him — but we 
perceived him, as I mentioned above, through 
small doses of his works, filling the gaps with 
large doses of his theories on art.... Now it turns 
out that there is no such "artist Malevich" at all; 
there are several persons whose name is "Kazimir 
Malevich" who produce paintings.... In his lack of 
independence, dependency and subordination he 
is very persistent and consistent; however, as 
every new "epidemic" captivates him completely, 
the one Malevich falls apart into several Ma- 
leviches; but these several Maleviches are unable 
to constitute one complete Malevich... Only the 

MARCH 25, 1920-? 
Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin 

latest version of Malevich deserves our atten- 
tion — Malevich the Suprematist. Here he is origi- 
nal, at least in terms of theory. 

Malevich does not understand however, that 
art gains nothing from theory. As far as he is con- 
cerned, art emerges from theory. Once a dogma is 
created — art will adjust to it Now he could paint 
with his eyes shut. He could now paint being 
completely blind. The brain is more important 
than the eye: As long as there is thought there 
will be painting. This is the touching fetishism of a 
primitive personality, who has discovered within 
himself the process of thought 1 His Suprematist 
experiments are the same. They are not paintings 
at all but illustrations of a theory. Their justifica- 
tion or superfluousness depends directly on the 
truthfulness or falsity, richness or emptiness of any 
of Malevich's theoretical schemes, and not at all 
on their intrinsic artistic merits or the successful 
solutions of purely painterly problems. There is 
nothing whatsoever that is outstanding about 
Malevich either as a painter, a master of texture, a 
master of tone or as a master of color. 


First Exhibition of Unovis, Svomas, 


The Exhibition was timed to coincide with the first 
All-Russian conference of teachers and students 
of art in Moscow, June 2-9, 1920. 


Quoted from Sergei Mikhail Eizenshteyn. 
Memuary (Sergei Mikhail Eisenstein: 
Memoirs), Moscow, Red. gazety "Trud": 
Muzei kino, 1997, v. 2, p. 307: 

A strange provincial town The red bricks of the 
principle streets are painted white and on this 
white background numerous green circles, orange 
squares and blue rectangles have been painted. 
This is Vitebsk in 1920. Malevich's paintbrush has 
made its way over the brick walls of the town. 
"The squares are our palettes" the walls 
proclaim... In a fleeting impression of the town 
one sees orange circles, red squares and 
green trapeziums. 


Suprematist confetti is strewn about the streets 
of a flabbergasted city 


Art and Revolution, Vitebsk 

Without catalogue 


March 28 

Second Exhibition of Unovis, Atelier 

Tramot, Vitebsk 

Without catalogue 


A. Romm, "Vystavka b Vitebske" 
("Exhibition in Vitebsk"), Iskusstvo (Vitebsk) 
(Nos. 4-6, 1921), pp. 41-42 

There were quite a few works at the Unovis exhi- 
bition. On display was the result of two years of 
work (1919-21). Unovis needs the new art only 
as a fulcrum on which to place the lever of 
Suprematism (the highest and ultimate apocalyp- 
tic system) in order to overturn the entire world 
The leaders of Unovis will accept nothing less. 
Unovis has no use for art or painterly culture in 
and of itself as they will wither away in the 
process of the building of fantastic world spaces. 
The conquest of space, building in the air, the 
radical reconstruction of all of the material -tech- 
nical culture on the basis of "the laws of 
nature" — such are the grand Utopias that draw 
adolescent artists to Unovis. 

June 4-8 

Unovis Exhibition in the Paul Cezanne 

Club of Vkutemas, Moscow 

Without catalogue 

June 22-July 12 

Exhibition Dedicated to the 3d Congress 

of the Comintern, Hotel Continental, 


Without catalogue 

December 20-21 
Unovis, Inkhuk, Moscow 

Without catalogue 


B. Arvatov, [Review of K. S. Malevich's book] 
Bog ne skinut: Iskusstvo, Tserkov, Fabrika 
{God Is Not Overthrown) [Vitebsk, 1922], in 
Pecaht Revoliutsiia, Moscow, 1922, kn. 7 

There are two conflicting currents in nonobjective 
art, as there were before in figurative painting ,.. 
expressionism, i.e., the art of subjective and 
emotional-anarchic forms stemming from Van 
Gogh (Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Kokoschka) and con- 
structivism, i.e., the art of making things, stem- 
ming from Cezanne (Tatlin, Rodchenko, 
Stenbergi). The first current places art above life 
and endeavors to change life in conformance 
with art, while the second places life above art . . . 
and endeavors to make art conform to life. For 
the first current form is paramount, for the sec- 
ond it is the goal of this form. 

To which of these currents does Suprematism 

Suprematism is nothing else than that very 
same expressionism, however, not emotional but 
intellectual. While expressionists can be character- 
ized as fully lacking in formal principle, the 
Suprematists, on the other hand, strictly adhere to 
geometrical forms (the square is a "sacred sym- 
bol" for all Suprematists and is sown on every- 
one's sleeves of coats and jackets) but this is 
where all difference ends. 

Suprematism is the most malevolent reaction 
under the banner of revolution, i.e., an especially 
harmful reaction. Left art, represented by its truly 
revolutionary groups (Constructivism) must piti- 
lessly sever the links that still tie it to Suprematism. 

N. Taraburkin, Of molbert k masine {From 
the Easel to the Machine), Moscow, 1923, 
p. 12 

If Malevich's black square on a white background, 
with all its meager artistic sense, does contain a 
painterly idea, called by the painter "economy," 
or "fifth dimension," then Rodchenko's canvas 

lacks any content whatsoever. It is a dull, mute, 
blind wall.. The objection that could be raised 
by the assiduous supporters of historical chronol- 
ogy that such a canvas has already been exhibited 
by Malevich is of no relevance to me. 



Exhibition of Provincial Art Schools at the 
All-Russian Conference on Artistic 
Education, Vkhutemas, Moscow 

Without catalogue 

May 14-20 

Third Exhibition of Unovis, Institute of 

Artistic Practice, Vitebsk 

Without catalogue 

June 15 

Survey of New Trends in Art, Museum of 

Artistic Culture, Petrograd 

Without a catalogue 


VITEBSK. 1921-22 

State Russian Museum. St. Petersburg 


. Hue 

Oast enif^iBHo m* 8 . 




w M. KYHUM. 


YOHATw^-MoP-re A H)a»m 

BmTEKCK 192i1 r. flHBUFb. 

• yiAmN<K*» M! !•. 

Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin 

October 15-ca. December 31 

First Russian Art Exhibition, Galerie van 

Diemen, Berlin; traveled to the Stedelijk 

Museum, Amsterdam, April 28 to May 28, 


123. Suprematismus; 124. Suprematismus; 125. 
Suprematismus; 126. Weiss auf Weiss (White on 
White); 127. Messerschleifer {Knife Sharpener) (not 
exhibited in Amsterdam). Additions to Amster- 
dam: No. 607. Portre; No. 608. Kompositie; 400. 
Umschlag, Lithographie. 



Kazimir Malevich: Twenty-five Years of 

Work, Museum of Painterly Culture, 


Opened May 17 

Exhibition of Paintings of Petrograd 
Artists of all Tendencies 1918- 1923, 
Academy of Fine Arts, Petrograd 

Unovis affirms the progressive development of the 
system from Cubism to Futurism and Suprematism. 

Cubist System 

1253. Still-Life; 1254. Cubist Construction, 
1255. Still-Life; 1256. Violin; MSI. Still-Life; 1258. 
Still-Life; 1259. Still-Life, 1260. Smoker; 1261 
Violin; 1262. Newspaper seller; 1263. Clock; 
1264. Still-Life; 1265. Head; 1266. Head; 1267. 
Cubist Construction; 1268. Drawings. 

Futurist System 

1269. Locomotive; 1270. Skater; 1271. 
Movement of an Airplane; Mil. Electricity; 1273. 
Cubo-Futurist Construction; 1274. Movement of 
Machine; 1275. Dynamic Construction; 1276. 
Cinema; Mil. Projector; MIS. Drawings, Sub- 
marine, Projector. 

Suprematist System 

1279. Cubo-Suprematist Construction; 1280. 
Cubo-Suprematist Construction; 1281. Suprema- 
tist Section; 1282. Suprematist Mirror; 1283. 
Suprematist Section; 1284. Suprematist Construc- 
tion; 1285. Suprematist Section; 1286. Suprema- 
tist Section; 1287. Suprematist Section; 1288. 
Suprematist Construction; 1289. Suprematist Sec- 
tion; 1290. Suprematist Section; 1291. Suprema- 
tist Construction; 1292. Suprematist Section; 
1293. Suprematist Construction; 1294. Suprema- 
tist Construction, 1295. Suprematist Section; 
1296. Suprematist Section; 1297. Suprematist 
Section; 1298. Suprematist Section; 1299. 
Suprematist Construction; 1300. Suprematist 
Section; 1301. Suprematist Section; 1302. 
Suprematist Section; 1303. Suprematist Section; 
1304. Suprematist Section; 1305. Suprematist 
Construction; 1306. Suprematist Construction; 
1307. Suprematist Section; 1308. Suprematist 
Section; 1309. Suprematist Section; 1310. Draw- 
/ngs Suprematist Cross Section; 1311. Cufao- 
Suprematist Construction, 1312. Cubo-Suprematist 

Without a catalogue 


Nikolai Punin, "Gosudarstvennaia vystavka" 
("State exhibition"), Z/i/zn /s/cussfva, 1923 

In order to understand Suprematist painting it is 
necessary ... to enter the "sect" (Unovis), other- 
wise one's understanding of Suprematism as a 
painterly phenomenon will only be approximate. I 
do not belong to the "sect" and therefore my 
opinion of Suprematist painting can only be rela- 
tive... Is Suprematist painting possible without 
the Suprematist system and ideology? Is it enough 
just to look at the Suprematist canvases or is also 
necessary to pay attention to the words in order 
to render a proper judgment' Is there more paint- 
ing or ideology in Suprematism? All of these 
questions have been brusquely answered by two 
forms at the exhibition: two "white" canvases 
without any signs whatsoever. Regardless of the 
intensity of the canvases, they do not, of course, 
constitute any painterly value in and of them- 
selves. Moreover, their material condition (the 
condition of the surfaces) is concealed by the 
artists. The canvases are mounted just below the 
ceiling and are meant to be seen at a distance. 
The purpose of these "pure" forms is to reveal, 
and to refer to, in the language of painting, a cer- 
tain condition of the consciousness, under which 
the tension ("excitement") of the Suprematist 
(but no other) disposition is close, as far as I 
understand, to the painterly zero [nothing] about 
which Malevich has spoken so much of recently. 
What is of the greatest importance here is not the 
canvas itself but the ideological system that turns 
the canvas into a painterly event. Thus when 
Suprematists are asked whether anyone can 
exhibit such a canvas they reply in the negative 
adding that for this a great deal of inner tension is 
necessary, an answer that seems paradoxical to us 

The introduction by Suprematism of an ideo- 
logical system into painting reveals its rationalistic 
origins and leads to the conclusion that Suprema- 
tism ... is a secondary phenomenon. For what we 
see in painting above all else is an activity of the 
will and not of the intellect We recognize in 
painting its independent significance, its "milieu." 


This is the reason I counterpoise the Filonov- 
Matiushin-Malevich line to Tallin's broad road 

S. lutkevich, "Sukharnaia stolitsa" ("The 
Rusk Capital"), LEF (No. 3, 1923), p. 183 

"The only good canvas in the entire Unovis exhi- 
bition is an absolutely pure, white canvas with a 
very good prime coating. Something could be 
done on it " 


May 27-June8 

Retrospective Exhibition of the Activities 
of the Museum of Artistic Culture 
(Exhibition of Works of the Research 
Departments MKhK), Ginkhuk, Leningrad 

Without catalogue 

July 19-September 30 

Fourteenth International Exhibition of 

Art, Soviet Pavilion, Giardini, Venice 

111. Suprematismo = forma quadrata, 112. 
Suprmatismo= forma di croce. 113. Suprematismo 
= forma rotonda; 346. Supremo = planit; 347. 
Chino = planit, 348 Suprematismo in architet- 
tura; 349. Futuro = planit, 350. Planit di aviatore, 
351 Planit di un Sanatono. 

— Not all of Malevich's cited works were part of 
the exhibition due to last-minute organizational 


April 28-? 

International Exhibition of Decorative 
and Industrial Modern Arts, Grand 
Palais, Paris 

Suprematist porcelain forms by Malevich deco- 
rated by his students. 

Opened September 13- 7 
Left Currents in Russian Painting of the 
Last Fifteen Years, Museum of Painterly 
Culture, Moscow 

Without catalogue 


V. Perelman, ["From the itinerants to heroic 
realism"], 4 goda AkhRR (Moscow, 1926 

Let us try to understand the "art philosophy" of 
one of the founders of the extreme, so-called left, 
currents in art. I am referring to Kazimir Malevich. 

It is important to pay serious attention to those 
"gems" that are strewn about by Malevich in his 
"On New Systems in Art." 

Malevich appears here as an advocate of intu- 
ition. Everything that Malevich writes about the 
"fifth dimension" (the fourth dimension is 
not enough for him) is hopelessly weak. It would- 
n't hurt for him to learn from Uspensky or 
Khinton, who write about this in a much more 
interesting way. 

Something like a manifesto: the establishment of 
"a" in art. There is no need in going over all of the 
points, but some of them are a real "revelation." 

In point 15 Malevich renounces all the "bless- 
ings of heaven." He certainly does not need 
them, as in point 14 there is the "way of comple- 
mentary provisions"; and it is on these provisions, 
which they've elicited from the revolution, that 
the Maleviches have lived a free and easy life until 
very recently. 

In point 12 Malevich makes an appeal to "con- 
sider labor a vestige of the violent old world. " Just 
a minute Citizen Malevich, but what about the 
tenet "that labor shall rule the world" and one of 
the basic provisions of the Soviet Constitution "he 
who does not work does not eat?" There is no 
logic here. 

Are these the ravings of a paranoiac? Or are 
these "revelations" of the prophet from Vitebsk a 
brazen mockery of common sense? For nearly 
five years young artists have been fed this coun- 
terrevolutionary nonsense which has caused 
them great harm. Instead of the life-giving force 
of authentic mass art they were taught this 
drivel, and there were some fools who were 
taken in by it! 

After all this they have the unmitigated gall to 
claim that "Cubism and Futurism were revolution- 
ary movements in art anticipating the economic 
and political revolution of 1917." 

Now it appears that we had no inkling that the 
forerunner of the October Revolution was the 
October revolution in the fine arts led by the 
Maleviches ." 

The great stylist Flaubert said somewhere that 
"aesthetics is only the highest justice ." In the 
name of this highest justice, which must be con- 
centrated in each genuine work of art, it is neces- 
sary for us to cast away from ourselves the 
rubbish of nonobjectivism and epigonism 

November 29-January 31, 1926 

First Annual Exhibition of the Scientific 

Section of the Commisariat of 

Enlightenment, Historical Museum, 


Without catalogue 


February 27-March 25 

First International Exhibition of Modern 

Architecture, Palace of Fine Arts, Warsaw 

Studies for the first group of Suprematist Planits: 
Calm, two original drawings, 1924; nonobjec- 
tive Suprematist Plamt-Construction; Unovis- 
Suprematism-Future Planits (Houses) of the Earth 
Dwellers (People), original drawing, 1923 

May 30-June 15 

Retrospective Exhibition of Works of 

the Institute of Artistic Culture for the 

Scholastic Year 1925- 1926, Ginkhuk, 


Without catalogue 


Letter from V Yermolayeva to M. Larionov, 
July 17, 1926: 

The exhibition with which we concluded the cur- 
rent year, and which included several architectonic 
models by Malevich — about 25, and by his direct 
assistants, and also the research departments 
where we dig about in painting itself and color; in 
the structure of color, in color fields in the con- 
structions of the form; in everything specific that 


differentiates the artist from photography and the 
movies, advertising, newspapers, books and other 
carriers of current ideas. We are obliged to clarify 
for the first time that painting in and of itself has 
its own orbit and that its culture, having reached 
the second stage of Cubism, has ended forever 
and can only go backwards from Cezanne to 
Corot, softer and flabbier; that 100 percent of it 
has already been achieved and modernity will 
work only in color; and all the art of the plastic 
will go into architecture, in which the classicism 
of the epoch will be completed, although not 
very soon. 

— Quoted from E. F. Kovtun, M. M. Babana- 
zarova, E. D. Gazieva, Avangard, ostanovlennyi na 
begu (Leningrad: Izd-vo "Avrora," 1989). 

October 31 -November 
Exhibition of Paintings, Graphics, 
Sculpture, and Architecture of the 
Association of Painters "Four Arts," 
Historical Museum, Moscow 

159. Suprematist Art in the Construction of 

Three-Dimensional Objects 

Suprematist Order 




— In the supplementary and corrected cata- 
logue edition, Malevich's works are absent. 


March 20-25 

Exhibition of Kazimir Malevich, Club of 

Polish Artists, Hotel Polonia, Warsaw 

Without catalogue 


Jan Klescinski, Suprematism [excerpt from 
the article "Idea and Form. Essays on the 
Development of Polish Art"] (Warsaw, 
ca. 1931) 

Suprematism is authentic abstract art. Malevich 
has set forth its principles in Warsaw. Although 
they were simple, exalted, and puritanical, they 

if * t 


Courtesy State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 

were empty. This is a combination of purely 
abstract and actual geometric bodies and planes, 
relating to each other in a certain way and in cer- 
tain proportions. Perhaps there is a lyricism in this. 
But the theoretician does not speak of it. He 
speaks only of forms which he creates out of 
abstraction, without any regard as to whether 
anyone has ever used them. 

Suprematism could die of abstractionist con- 
sumption, of from a lack of blood which is carried 
by reality. He makes the impression of being 
emasculated, even though he produces the illu- 
sion of creation, something like the ideas of Plato; 
even though he lays claim to taking the place of 
the lord God in the invention of new forms. There 
is some irrationality in this, some sort of madness 
in this escape from reality; there is the pride of a 
man who would like to be God, but there is 
something of the gramophone as well, who 
believes that with a richness of ideas one can 
defend works of art. 

Konrad Vinkler, [The Exhibition of Prof. 
Malevich in the Club of Polish Artists and 
the Theory of Suprematism], Kurier Poranny 
(No. 89, March 30, 1927), p. 3 

The Spirit of Russian mysticism and alienation fer- 
tilizes these undertakings in the sphere of pure 
abstraction, which are carried to an extreme and 
absurd level, overvaluing the metaphysical side of 
the creative process. 

That is why the metaphysical and theoretical 
staff of Suprematism has two ends, one of which 
could be brought to bear against it and cast 
doubt on the individuality of the creator of 
this current. 

May 14-September 30 

Special Exhibition of Malevich. Greater 

Berlin Art Exhibition, Lehrter Bahnhof, 


308. Sonderausstellung 


Ernst Kallai, "Kazimir Malevich," Das 
Kunstblatt (Berlin, 1927), No. 7 

At The Great Berlin Art Exhibition there is a wide- 
ranging display of the oeuvre of the Russian 
painter encompassing his entire development. 

The exhibition begins with his Impressionist 
and Post-Impressionist paintings and organically 
follows his development through cubism and 
futurism to conclude with the works already men- 
tioned. Planes are applied to planes, at first varied 
and multicolored but at the end only white on 
white resulting in faded paintings lacking in form 
and enlivened only by texture. This is the point of 
departure for his architectural sketches in which 
realistic three-dimensional constructions reappear 
in the area of the latest conquest of painting — 
the world of illusory space. 

The last paintings were painted at the very lat- 
est a few years ago. All of the new works pursue 
or declare architectural goals. It is quite difficult to 
imagine what further development in painting is 
possible beyond what has been achieved — white 
on white planes. 

Malevich's oeuvre deserves to be the object of 
attention. It possesses a strong individual original- 
ity that organically links West European resonance 
with profoundly Russian characteristics. 

A. V. Lunacharsky, "Russkie khudozhniki 
v Berline" ("Russian Artists in Berlin"), 
Ogoniok, No. 30, 1927 (Quoted from: A.V. 
Lunacharsky, Ob iskusstve {On art) (Moscow: 
"Iskusstvo," 1982), vol. 2, pp. 214-16. 

Russian artists have taken up a prominent posi- 
tion at the exhibition. First of all there is an enor- 
mous room dedicated to a retrospective, 
systematic exhibition of the oeuvre of our famous 
"Suprematist" Malevich. 


The artist Malevich, in spite of the exclusivity of 
his approach to painting is, of course, a great 
master It is not surprising that in a country where 
the incomprehensible Kandmsky could be suc- 
cessful, the more synthetic and courageous 
Malevich would also find favor, especially after his 
present turn towards hard and harsh painting. 

It is here that Malevich has been able for the first 
time to exhibit his work in a comprehensive man- 
ner... Severe and assiduous like his models the 
icon and the "lubok," Malevich is at heart a classi- 
cist who does not permit his colors to intermingle 
and thus, so to speak, lose their essence. 

In his genre Malevich has achieved consider- 
able results and shown great skill. I don't know if 
such canvases will be produced after him, but I 
am sure that his style, already applied by the late 
Popova as a decorative method, could have a 
great future in this respect. 

In Malevich's latest works exhibited in Berlin he 
posits and resolves the same problems but in the 
piano, pianissimo rather than forte mode. The 
works in question are very pale and practically 
one-toned At times it seems that the surfaces — 
white-cream, pale pink, rough on smooth — can 
be differentiated by texture alone and not by color. 

It is possible not to value Malevich's paintings, 
that is, not receive any pleasure from them. 
Looking at his works, however, it is impossible not 
to recognize his talent, persistence and the exis- 
tence of a system 

The problem arises when Malevich stops paint- 
ing and begins to write brochures. I heard that 
the Germans were also taken aback by his writ- 
ings. I made an attempt to read the grandiloquent 
and obscure theoretical works by the leader of the 
"Suprematists." In a confused manner he seems 
to try to somehow link his goals and path with 
the revolution and with God. 

July 23-October 9 

Werkbund Exhibition: The Apartment, 

International Exhibition of Plans and 

Models in the New Art of Building, 

Interim Theaterplatz beim Neuen Schloss, 


1 Architectural Model, 452 Architectural Model 

November 1-? 

New Currents in Art, State Russian 

Museum, Leningrad 

Without catalogue 


February 6-? 

First Exhibition of the History of Applied 

Art, Institute of Art History, Leningrad 

Without catalogue 


V. Yermolaieva, "Vystavka prikladnovo 
iskusstvoznania" ("Exhibition of Applied 
Art"), Zhizn iskusstva (Leningrad), 
February 28, 1928, no. 9 

Malevich in his experimental work endeavors to 
resolve the problem of the new decorative design 
for architecture and things. The models, compo- 
nents and fragments exhibited by him are meant 
to establish a definite style which can be applied 
in all areas of artistic construction and artistic 
industry. He works on the basis of the system of 
Suprematism which he discovered earlier (in 
1913). He develops in three dimensions the same 
rhythm and order of forms that he discovered for 
plane constructions. Malevich called his models 
Arkhitektons, emphasizing their nonobjective 

March 10- 7 

Modernist Salon, Salon of the Union of 

Plastic Artists, Warsaw 

68. Suprematist Painting 

November- December 
Exhibition of Works of the State 
Commissions for the Acquisition of Works 
of Fine Art in 1927-28, State Tretiakov 
Gallery, Moscow 

384. Suprematist Architekton and Plamt 

Stale Russian Museum, St Petersburg 


October 6 -November 3 

Abstract and Surrealist Painting and 

Sculpture, Kunsthaus, Zurich 

71. Composition 

November 1 -? 

Exhibition of Works of Malevich, State 

Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow 

30. Square, 1913; 31. Circle, 1913; 32. Two Planes 
in Intersection, 1913; 33. Red Square, 1914; 34. 
Untitled (Suprematist Object), n.d.; 35 Untitled 
(Suprematist Object), n.d.; 36. Untitled 
(Suprematist Object), n.d ; 37 Untitled (Suprema- 
tist Object), n.d.; 50. Four Architektons, ca 1922, 
and Sei-en Fragments of Architektons 


A. Fiodorov-Davydov, "Iskusstvo K. S. 
Malevicha" ("The Art of K. S. Malevich"), 
Moscow: State Tretiakov Gallery, 1929, 
pp. 6, 9. 

But soon the artist completely rejects the object, 
breaking it down into its component parts, which 
he rearranges in different combinations, taken 
from different points of view in an arbitrary com- 
position (Cubism, 1911-12) He breaks down 
objects to their basic geometric forms (circle, 
square, two intersecting planes) and turns them 
into the basis of his abstract Cubist constructions 


The logical outcome of this was abstract nonob- 
jective art (1913-18) and the conditions for the 
transmission of "pure" movement in space and 
the free combinations of simple geometric forms 

His architectural works are abstract thoughts 
on architectural themes rather than real projects. 
He is a subjectivist and a dreamer-philosopher. 
However, this in no way interferes with his works 
having their own objective significance His 
Suprematist painting has already achieved its goal 
in textiles and other areas of the decorative arts. 
Western architects are showing a great deal of 
interest in his "planits" and "Architektons." The 
great imagination and expressiveness of his well- 
developed forms provide a wealth of material for 
workings architects. 

I. V. Kliun, "Problema tsveta v zhivopisi 
1928-1929" ("The Problem of Light in 
Painting 1928-1929"), Maliamoie Delo 
(1931), no. 2 

It seems that at a well-known point, some artists, 
whether consciously or not, begin to avoid per- 
ceiving colors in a normal way. The example of 
the artist Malevich is only typical. It is well known 
that Malevich is an extremely energetic and origi- 
nal artist who, several years ago, painted paintings 
with bright and powerful colors. At the same time 
he also painted red squares and black circles — 
"points" as he called them. Time passed, his tem- 
perament abated and he began to paint differ- 
ently — in calm, even pale hues ("white on 
white") and now his squares were painted black. 
Now he answers the question as to in what form 
it is best to look at red color he replies: "of 
course, in the round one." 

— Quoted from: I. V. Kliun, Moi put v iskusstve: 
Vospominaniia, Stati, dnevniki (My Path in Art: 
Reminiscences, Articles, Diaries) (Moscow: Izd-vo 
"RA": Literaturno-khudozhestvennoe agentstvo 
"Russkii avangard," 1999), p. 368. 


Ca. April-June 

Solo Exhibition of Malevich's Works, Kiev 

Picture Gallery, Kiev 

Without catalogue 


S. Yefimovich, "Vistavka tvoriv khudozhnika 
K. S. Malevicha v Kievskoi Kartinnoi Galeree" 
("Exhibition of the Works of the Artist K. S. 
Malevich in the Kiev Picture Gallery"), 
Radziansko mistetstvo (Kiev, 1930), no. 14 

The exhibition of the works of the artist K.S. 
Malevich at the art gallery is a backward glance at 
his activity of the past thirty-five years. However, 
not all of the stages of development of this 
extremely prolific artist are represented by the 
forty-five works on display, and this makes the 
exhibition somewhat incomplete. 

Beginning with 1913, the abstract-formal ten- 
dencies in the oeuvre of K S Malevich reached 
their apogee The logical conclusion of this activity 
resulted in a definitive nonobjectivity The real 
thing is now completely removed, it is not even 
used to solve formal problems. In this period he 
creates in order to reveal "pure" space, "pure" 
movement, "pure" paint... His tendency is now 
called Suprematism — a name he himself created. 
His Suprematism brought him to the realization 
that the old figurative art was dead 

The task of Suprematism according to Malevich 
is to establish three elements — three basic formu- 
las: 1) the square; 2) the circle; and 3) two inter- 
secting planes. These three elements are 
represented at the exhibition by three canvases on 
which a black square, circle and cross are painted 
on a white background. According to Malevich 
these elements are the future of art, out which — 
as they become more complex — a new artistic 
culture will be created. 

Beginning in 1922-23 Malevich moves on to 
the final stage of his work which continues to this 
day. Malevich has abandoned painting in favor of 
creating new architectural forms for the age of 

The designs for the architectural structures that 
are represented at the exhibition are all executed 
in white, but now Malevich is also taking up the 
question of painting different parts of the build- 
ings in different colors. His painted Suprematist 
planits are the preparatory work for this. 

Even though Malevich was greatly influenced 
by foreign art, he is by no means and epigone and 
mere follower of the artistic thought of the West. 
He has always made his own contributions. 
Sometimes he has even anticipated artistic devel- 
opments in Europe by discovering certain formal 
aspects of art before European artists. 

However, in spite on all of the wonderful 
aspects of Malevich's creative work, the founda- 
tion of his artistic activity is foreign to proletarian 
culture. His entire work conveys the notion that 
he, as a bourgeois artist, needs art not for serving 
society but only for the sake of form 

Although he is subjectively distant from the 
new life of our republic, Malevich, who has done 
much for the development of art in the age of 
industrialization, may objectively be useful in solv- 
ing problems now faced by our artistic culture... 
His influence can be seen in the production of 
porcelain, textiles, printing, posters and 
" luboks. "... It is in this formal sense that the exhi- 
bition of the works of Malevich at the gallery 
could be useful to the Soviet viewer 

June 8-? 

Exhibition of Works of the State 

Commission for the Acquisition of Plastic 

Arts, 1928-29, State Tretiakov Gallery, 


80. K. S. Malevich, Leningrad, 2 Soiuza Sviazi 
Street, apt. 5 

125. "Arkhitekton. Planit — Monument motif" 
painted, plaster. Workshop "(4 Arts)" Pr. 1929-30 


June 1 5-early 1932 

Art in the Age of Imperialism, State 

Russian Museum, Leningrad 

Without catalogue 


Courtesy Stale Russian Museum. St Petersburg 

November -February 1932 
Experimental Comprehensive Exhibition 
of Art from the Age of Capitalism, State 
Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow 

Without catalogue 

November 13-May 1933 

Artists of the RSFSR of the Past Fifteen 

Years, State Russian Museum, Leningrad 

Spatial Suprematism. Arkhitektons. 

1227 Designs for Household Implements: 
1228. Arkhitektons Alfa, Beta and others, 1929 
Architectural Ornaments a, b, c, 1230-35 
Theme of Architectural Monuments in Parks and 
Squares: a, b, c, d, e, 1236. Column for the 
Memorial Land of the Soviets; 1237 Black 
Square.; 1238. Red Square, 1913; 1239. Dynamic 
Color Composition; 1240. Decoration of Walls; 
1241 Suprematist Plane-Table — drawing; 1242. 
The Principle of Wall-Paintings. 1919; 1243. 
Formula of Spatial Suprematism; 1244. Spatial 
Suprematism: Dynamic Coloring, 1916; 1245 
Spatial Suprematism, 1920, 1246. Little House in a 
Field; 1247 Harvest, 1248. Colored Composition: 
Female Torso on Light Blue; 1249 Colored Com- 
positions: Female Torso on White; 1250. Woman's 
Portrait; 1251. Red House, 1252 Two Figures in 
the Field; 1253. Colored Composition: Three 
Figures; 1254 Red Cavalry, 255 Sportsmen; 1256 
Woman with a Rake: Colored Composition 


June 27-March? 

Artists of the RSFSR of the Past Fifteen 

Years, Historical Museum, Moscow 

508 Girl with Red Staff. 1932, 509. Prototype of 
New Image; 510 Sketch for Abstract Portrait, 
1933; 511 Woman Worker, 1933; 512. Woman's 

Exhibits not in catalogue: Black Square (State 
Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow); Suprematism (State 
Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow); Composition 
(Dynamic Suprematism) (State Tretiakov Gallery, 


N. Bukharin, "Nekotorie mysli o sovetskoi 
zhivopisi" ("Several Thoughts on Soviet 
Art"), Izvestiia (July 11, 1933), no. 172, p. 3 

A group of formalists and nonobjectivists ("Black 
Square"), etc., are ensconced in a separate sec- 
tion of the exhibition. The well-known Tatlin has 
also taken up his position there. Soviet art is now 
developing in such a way so as to bring about the 
demise of formalism; this can be clearly seen from 
the isolated position of this entire group... 
Abstraction "from content" kills "form" itself. 
Having reached the limits of the impoverishment 
of reality, maximum abstractedness, utmost 
"purity" and an enormous severing of form from 
content, art has unavoidably come up against a 
dead end: it has come to its end ... abstraction 
"from content" means the death of painting... 
Here one can see the dead end of bourgeois art. 

A. Efros, "Vchera, sevodnia, zavtra" 
("Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow"), Iskusstvo 
(1933), no. 6, p. 41 

Malevich, the father of Suprematism, colonst, 
geometer and apologist of abstract architecture, 
has presented the exhibition with an unexpected 
gift: he has declared his return to realism and sent 
proof of his conversion — a series of works in 
which he expresses his movement towards con- 
temporary realism. Sounds good! In reality things 
are different Imagine a series of canvases, start- 

ing with the contours of abstract compositions 
and finishing with a human figure, which imitates 
the models of French portrait painting of the time 
of Clouet [Klue], 

Tatlin and Malevich were initially comrades in 
arms but have ended up taking opposing posi- 
tions One is a Futurist who poured art into indus- 
try and the other is retrospectivist, who is ready to 
be a realist as long it's the realism of 1630. 

O. Beskin, "Formalizm v zhivopisi" 
("Formalism in Painting"), Iskusstvo (1933), 
no. 6, p. 41 

Formalism in any branch of the arts, but especially 
in painting is now the major form of bourgeois 

Suprematists, artists without any subject mat- 
ter — knights of black squares and geometric 
combinations of evenly colored in planes who 
completely deny any ideological content in art... 
The leaders of the remnants of this tendency are 
Malevich, Kliun, Suetin. 

The "constructivist system of form-paint" as an 
end in itself was taken by the nonobjectivists, 
with the logical consistency of people completely 
divorced from reality and the real requirements of 
the proletarian masses, to its extreme. Their 
"paintings" became purely geometrical construc- 
tions of planes, three-dimensional figures and 
lines. Only in the combinations of contrasting col- 
ors and the contours themselves was the 

Courtesy Vasiln Rakitm 


"essence" of this garret-anarchist "riot." Logical 
conclusion: Malevich's solitary Black Square as the 
highest achievement in art; a complete dead end. 
And this dead end of a nonldeological, feeble art 
stuck in the rear of the most reactionary ideology 
of European art was proclaimed as the death of 
art itself. 

P. Kerzhentsev, "O Tretiakovskoi galeree" 
("On the Tretiakov Gallery"), Pravda 
(June 7, 1936) 

For some reason the management of the 
Tretiakov gallery considers it necessary to exhibit 
even the absurd works of Malevich and 
Kandinsky. Kandinsky's "painting" is called 
"Composition" — clearly an ironic name, because 
in these formless lines and light blots there is 
chaos, typical of the artist and his thinking. The 
management of the Tretiakov Gallery even 
respectfully exhibited such a mockery of a work 
as Malevich's Black Square. On a framed white 
field there is a big black square. Really, such a 
profound thought! What a high level of tech- 
nique, what color, what a brilliant representation 
of an era. 

Courtesy Vasilii Rakitm 







This index includes only works by 
Kazimir Malevich 

Alogic Composition, 1914-15, 112 

Alogic Composition, fall 1914-spnng 1915, 108 

Alogic Composition, 1915, 113 

Alogic Composition, 1915, 115 

Alogic Composition, 1915, 116 

Alogic Composition 4a, 1915, 117 

Alogical Composition: Design for Victory Over the 
Sun (Strongman), 1913, 102 

Alpha Architekton, 1920, 204 

Basic Suprematist Element, The, 1927, 16 
Beta Architekton, ca. 1926, 205 
Black Cross, 1915, 121 
Black Square, 1915, 119 

Elongated Square with Crossing Elements, 1915, 136 

Fabric Ornament, 1919, 219 

Fabric Ornament No, 15, 1919,218 

Figure with Arms Spread Forming a Cross, 

Foursquares, 1915, 125 

Future Planits (Houses) for Earth Dwellers (People), 

Gota, 1923,206 

Head (Face with Orthodox Cross), 1930-31, 237 

Lady at Advertising Column, 1914, 105 

Modern Buildings, 1923-24, 214 

Composition 11 R, 1915-16, 169 

Composition 12 R, 1915, 159 

Composition 17 R, 1915, 138 

Composition 21 C, 1915, 139 

Composition with Mona Lisa. 1914, 106 

Construction 12 Q, 1916, 181 

Construction, ca. 1915, 114 

Construction: Two Views, ca. 1925-26, 215 

Cubo-Futurist Composition: Man Smoking a Pipe, 
1913, 111 

Cup and Saucer, 1923, 223 

Cup, 1923,222 

Cup, 1923,222 

Design for a Suprematist Dress, 1923, 220 

Design for a Suprematist Dress, 1923, 221 

Dissolution of a Plane, 1917, 191 

Drawing Related to House Under Construction, 
1915, 155 

Dynamic Suprematism (Spheric Evolution of a Plane), 
1918, 199 

Dynamic Suprematism (Supremus No. 57), 1916, 166 

Dynamic Suprematism, 1916, 176 

Elongated Plane, 1915, 123 
Elongated Square, 1927, 26 

Painterly Realism Boy with Knapsack — Color Masses 
in the Fourth Dimension, 1 91 5, 128 

Pictorial Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two 
Dimensions, Called Red Square, 1915, 127 

Plane in Rotation, Called Black Circle, 1915, 120 

Private of the First Division, 1914, 107 

Second Basic Suprematist Element, The, 1927, 19 

Square and Oval (Construction 20 I), 
ca. 1915-16, 170 

Study for a Cosmic Arrangement, ca. 1917, 189 

Study for the decor of Wcfo/y Over the Sun. 
1913, 103 

Study for the decor of Victory Over the Sun, Act 1 , 
Scene 1, 1913, 98 

Study for the decor of Victory Over the Sun, Act 1 , 
Scene 2, 1913, 99 

Study for the decor of Victory Over the Sun, Act 1 , 
Scene 3, 1913, 99 

Study for the decor of Victory Over the Sun, Act I, 
Scene 4, 1913, 101 

Study for the decor of Victory Over the Sun, Act 2, 
Scene 5, 1913, 100 

Study for the decor of Wcfo/y Over the Sun, Act 2, 
Scene 6, 1913, 101 

Suprematism (18th Construction), 1915, 141 

Suprematism (Construction in Dissolution), 
1918, 203 


Suprematism (Hieratic Suprematist Cross), 

Suprematism (Mystic Suprematism), 1920-22, 230 

Suprematism (Mystic Suprematism), 1920-22, 231 

Suprematism (Self-Portrait in Two Dimensions), 
1915,22, 147 

Suprematism (Supremus No 50), 1915, 20, 151 

Suprematism (Supremus No 55), 1916, 164 

Suprematism (Supremus No. 56), 1916, 165 

Suprematism (White Suprematist Cross), 1920, 229 

Suprematism No. 55 (Spheric Evolution of a Plane), 
1917, 195 

Suprematism of the Mind (Suprematism of the Spirit), 
1920, 227 

Suprematism, 1915, 137 

Suprematism, 1915, 144 

Suprematism, 1915, 150 

Suprematism, 1915, 161 

Suprematism, 1915, 163 

Suprematism Circle Among Rectangles and Triangles, 
1915, 156 

Suprematism Constructive Momentum 
(Compositions 10 T), 1917, 184 

Suprematism: Female Figure, 1928-29. 232 

Suprematism: Female Figure, 1928-29, 233 

Suprematism: Four Spatial Elements Against a Black 
Trapezoid, 1915, 134 

Suprematism: Horizontally Divided, 1916, 171 

Suprematism: Intersecting Planes, Fading (Planes in 
Dissolution), 1917, 198 

Suprematism: Large Black Trapezium and Red Square 
Among Rectangles and Lines. 1915, 154 

Suprematism: Nonobjective Composition, 1915, 160 

Suprematism Painterly Realism of a Football Player 
(Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension), 
1915. 24 146 

Suprematism: Sensation of the Electron, 1916, 182 

Suprematism: Sensation of Time, 1915, 157 

Suprematism: Square on a Diagonal Surface, 
1915, 133 

Suprematism: Three Intersecting Planes, 
Fadmg/Suprematism: Four Intersecting Planes, Fading 
(Planes in Dissolution), 1917, 196 

Suprematism: Two Intersecting Planes. 
Fadmg/Suprematism: Three Intersecting Planes, 
Fading (Planes in Dissolution), 1917, 197 

Suprematist Architekton, 1926 207 

Suprematist Architectural Model, 1927, 209 

Suprematist Compositions (Compositions 1 E), 
ca. 1917,235 

Suprematist Composition with Plane in Projection, 
1915, 131 

Suprematist Composition, 1915-16, 168 

Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying, 1915, 145 

Suprematist Design (Aerial View of a Landscape with 
Suprematist Elements), ca 1928, 217 

Suprematist Diagonal Construction 79 (Supremus No. 
79). 1917, 187 

Suprematist Element at the Moment of Dissolution of 
Sensation (Nonobjectivity), 1927, 40 

Suprematist Group (White) Sensation of Dissolution 
(Nonexistence), 1927, 37 

Suprematist Group, Derived from the Square, 

Suprematist Ornaments, 1927, 208 

Suprematist Painting (White Planes in Dissolution), 
1917-18, 202 

Suprematist Painting, 1915, 153 

Suprematist Painting, 1916, 177 

Suprematist Painting, 1916-17, 178 

Suprematist Painting, 1917-18, 193 

Suprematist Painting: Black Rectangle, Blue Triangle, 
1915. 24 129 

Suprematist Painting: Eight Red Rectangles, 
1915, 143 

Supremus No. 18, 1916-17, 185 

Supremus No. 38. 1916. 183 

Supremus No. 58 with Yellow and Black (Preliminary 
Study), 1916, 186 

Table No 1 Formula of Suprematism, 
ca 1925-26. 212 

Table No. 3. Spatial Suprematism, ca. 1925-26, 213 

Tailor, ca 1915, 109 

Teapot and Lid, 1923,225 

Third Basic Suprematist Element, The, 1927, 18. 93 

Three Basic Suprematist Elements in Contrast, 

Three Irregular Quadrangles, 1915, 135 

Untitled (Black Face and Orthodox Cross), 
1930-31, 236 

Untitled (Study for Supremus No. 55). 1916. 173 
Untitled (Suprematist Composition), ca 1916, 175 

Yellow and Black (Supremus No. 58), 1916, 167 







Honorary Trustees 
in Perpetuity 

Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Justin K. Thannhauser 
Peggy Guggenheim 

Honorary Chairman 

Peter Lawson-Johnston 


Peter B. Lewis 


Wendy L-J. McNeil 
Stephen C. Swid 
John S. Wadsworth, Jr. 


Thomas Krens 


Edward F. Rover 

Honorary Trustee 

Claude Pompidou 

Trustees Ex Officio 

Dakis Joannou 
Benjamin B. Rauch 

Director Emeritus 

Thomas M. Messer 


Jon Imanol Azua 
Peter M. Brant 
Mary Sharp Cronson 
Gail May Engelberg 
Daniel Filipacchi 
Martin D. Gruss 
Frederick B. Henry 
David H. Koch 
Thomas Krens 
Peter Lawson-Johnston 
Peter Lawson-Johnston 
Peter B. Lewis 
Howard W. Lutnick 
Wendy L-J. McNeil 
Edward H. Meyer 
Vladimir 0. Potanin 
Frederick W. Reid 
Richard A. Rifkind 
Denise Saul 
Terry Semel 
James B. Sherwood 
Raja W. Sidawi 
Seymour Slive 
Jennifer Stockman 
Stephen C. Swid 
John S. Wadsworth, Jr. 
John Wilmerding 


Photo Credits 

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Basel; 27. Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 
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Museum, St. Petersburg; 47. Courtesy Vasiln Rakitin; 
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Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 93. Photo: 
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Basel; 94. Photograph by Nikolai Suentin, © State 
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 98-100. Photo: Vilij 
Onikul, courtesy St. Petersburg State Museum of 
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Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam/ 
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Theatre & Music; 102-03. Courtesy Foundation 
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Museum, St. Petersburg; 107. © 2001 The Museum 
of Modern Art, New York; 108. Photo: Peter 
Schalchli; 109. Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne, 111. 
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Photo: Peter Schalchli; 116. Collection of Hiroshima 
Prefectural Art Museum; 1 17. Photo: Peter Schalchli; 
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State Museum Exhibition Center, 127. Photo: Peter 
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Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 164. Courtesy 
ROSIZO State Museum Exhibition Center; 165. © 
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 166 © Tate, 
London 2001; 167. © State Russian Museum, St. 
Petersburg; 168-69. Photo: Peter Schalchli, 170. 
Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 171, Courtesy 
Foundation Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, 
Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; 173. 
Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 175. Photo: David 
Heald; 176. Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 177. 
Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; 179. © 
2001 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 181 
Photo; Peter Schalchli; 182-84. Courtesy Foundation 
Cultural Center Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam/ 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 185. Photo: David 
Heald, courtesy The Judith Rothschild Foundation; 
186. Courtesy Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam; 187. © 2001 The Museum of Modern 
Art, New York; 189. Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 
191. Photo: Peter Schalchli; 193. Courtesy Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam, 195 Courtesy Kawamura 
Memorial Museum of Modern Art, Sakura, Japan; 
196-9. Courtesy Foundation Cultural Center 
Khardzhiev-Chaga, Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam; 201. © 2001 The Museum of Modern 
Art, New York; 202-03. Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam; 204. © State Russian Museum, St. 
Petersburg; 205-06. © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. Reunion 
des Musees Nationaux/Art Resource, NY; 207 
Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 208. © 
CNAC/MNAM/Dist. Reunion des Musees 
Nationaux/Art Resource, NY; 209. © State Tretiakov 
Gallery, Moscow; 211-13. © State Russian Museum, 
St. Petersburg, 214. Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, 
Amsterdam, 215. Photo by Allan Macintyre, © 
President and Fellows of Harvard College, 217. 
Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 218-23, 225. © 
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 227. Courtesy 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam/lnstituut Collectie 
Nederland, Rijswijk, 228-31. Courtesy Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam; 232-33 (left). © State Russian 
Museum, St. Petersburg; 233 (above), 235-37. 
Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Cologne; 239, 243-45, 247, 
251-52. © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 
253. Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin; 254. © State Russian 
Museum, St. Petersburg; 255-56. Courtesy Vasilii 
Rakitin; 257. © State Russian Museum, St. 
Petersburg; 258. Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin, 261, 263 
(top left). © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; 
263 (bottom right). Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin; 264. 
Courtesy Vasilii Rakitin. 




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